Recommended: Artifact – Cologne Tracks

Incoming heat from yet another UK producer who’s experimenting with footwork, Bristol’s Artifact. Releases on somethinksound and Rebirth displayed a flair for chunky house production, elements of which carry through seamlessly here. Local Action has already been responsible for dancefloor destroyers from DJ Q and T. Williams as well as Slackk’s criminally underrated “Raw Missions EP” and, as such, “Cologne Tracks’s” Chicago roots may seem like a bit of a curveball. If you look a bit closer, you’ll find it really isn’t. It seems that there has been an epiphany in the UK that footwork may provide more possibilities in the nation’s music than previously expected. Deft & Manni Dee have pushed that point hard – if you listen to the vocal intermission on their frantic masterpiece “This One, Art of the Possible” (on 2nd Drop’s recently recommended “Future Foundations” compilation) you’ll hear a cockney voice saying “everywhere you went – garage, garage… they say ‘ahh, ardkore’s dead, jungle’s dead, it’s all dead, it’s all dead, it’s all dead.” But by bring other sounds “into the country, they’ve kept it going. The same way.” Footwork has been a much needed breath of fresh air in what was becoming an increasingly stale scene – especially in conjunction with other in vogue US genres like bmore, ballroom and trap. Artifact contributes to what is establishing itself as a progressively idiosyncratic voice in the footwork community – the UK sound.

Radioactive Ray” brings the eyes-low, psychotic vibe – it’s the kind of track that, in combination with a strobe, would send you out of the club into all kinds of evil, psychadelic spaces. It’s in the bangs as much as the mood where a techno influence shows, they’re much thuddier than the Chi’s amorphous blobs of sub. “Stop the Radio” brings hip hop into the mix, with its slinky break loops and a fiery funk guitar lick it rides a far steadier bounce than others on the release. “Only Girl” erupts with punchy synths and super hard bangs while bongos and hi-hats push and pull the rhythm and sporadic high end glitters overhead. On “White Space Conflict” clips of Amerie coo over the top of game-over synth rushes and rude bass stabs that give way to a gut wrenching drop. At this stage it’s all sounding very UK – “Leich” borrows more from DMZ weight meditation than Chicago’s deranged frenzy, and with a murky eski synth hovering in the background it has floor-smashing consequences. “Do U Ever” feels more at home in what they love/hate to call ‘post-dubstep’. Sunrise synths and percussion exotica place Artifact more in the midst of Romare’s chilled out, soulful take on footwork. Elsewhere Artifact flips, for the positive, what was the UK’s most frustrating maxim of 2012 – ‘thou must use a pitched vocal sample’. “Oxygen” is probably the best example, drawing the listener into deeper, darker, Burial-er spaces. “Phat Odyssey” sees Artifact using the power of half-time to full effect, it’s got a real nodding groove. A tense string sample and funky piano stabs create a paranoid atmosphere that fittingly closes an album constantly balancing the darker shades of UK music with the relentless drive of footwork’s brisk tempo.

Artifact’s Cologne Tracks is available for free from Local Action (Note: the free downloads have run out on the label’s bandcamp. You can now download it here.) 

Tobias Shine