The Drum and Bass Arena compilation albums hold a special place in my heart. Ever since I came back to the United States (which has a miniscule drum ‘n’ bass fan base), they’ve been my best source for massive hits that I’ve missed from the past year. In addition to having 30+ songs, the album comes with two different hour-long mixes. Not a bad deal for only $6.99.
So why is it that I’m somewhat unimpressed by this year’s album? Is it because the genre is suffering? No, far from it. (Some of the best DnB songs I’ve heard have come out this past year. Also, 2012 was the first year that Drum and Bass topped the UK charts.) Is it because of the lack of the big hitters? No, there are more than enough recognizable names included (Fred V & Grafix, Logistics, S.P.Y, Friction, Skream, Wickaman).
The issue is that too many of these songs are too “run of the mill” for an American audience that, frankly, demands a high-quality selection if the genre is to gain any real footing in the United States. There are a few, however, that stand out as quality tunes.
• “Need To Know” by Wilkinson feat. Iman is by far and away the standout track. Not only is it a little bit lighter, there’s an infectious buildup that can’t be ignored. This is some of festival drum and bass’s finest. The second mix does well to start with this tune.
• “It’s a Secret” by DJ Hazard. One of the darker tunes here that still manages to be exciting.
• “Renegade Skank (D&BA 2013)” by Wickaman, Hoodlum, and Maverick. I really like what the trio did with the rastafarian dub to give it new legs.
• “Therapy (Remix)” by Original Sin.
• “Regenerate” by T Phonic. Is it just because I have a thing for female vocals on drum and bass? Nah. This groove really moves well. Top three on the compilation.
• “Elevate This Sound” by Calyx and Teebee. One of the quieter songs of the two discs but that’s a good thing.
• “The Hurting” by LSB. Super smooth.
• “Meant To Be” by Hybrid Minds. From the first chord, I knew I was going to like this song. The pianos are a definite welcome addition.
• “Games People Play” by Fred V and Grafix. Head bopping all day. Top 5 song.
• “Mirror Image” by Technimatic. Great song to leave until last.
The overall impression I have from this album is that… it’s only $7. Even though there are only 9 singles that I would would buy one-off, that’s still a good deal. If you’re just looking to get into drum and bass, maybe start elsewhere. Otherwise, if you know what the genre’s about, this is a steal.