Ars Antiqua Remixed

Experimental music and underground hip-hop label Atomcandy has released an eclectic collection of tunes under the uniting theme of "Ars Antiqua.” As the inlay explains it, Ars Antiqua is a medieval Latin term referring to a 13th century style of music from France that features counterpoint and simultaneous mixing of vocal components. These classical compositions have been taken up by leading drum & bass and hip-hop producers from the likes of Q-Burns Abstract Message, Jamie Myerson to Spacetime Continuum, Dara and Wally & Swingsett. The result is remarkably diverse, with a smooth transition from atmospheric ambience to heavy hip-hop aesthetics and heady drum & bass. Q-Burns is renowned for his groovy melee of acid-jazz, hip-hop, funk, soul and various other genres, but all that stays tightly under wraps so that he can indulge in some psychedelic, atmosphere-laden experimentation. Twenty-one-year old Philadelphia native Myerson's "Reis Glories" overtly melds medieval vocal pieces with drum & bass and offers the most haunting number, with its sad, sweet flute refrain. Aptly placed together, Myerson's contribution is followed by Kirk DeGiorgio's "Solo de Luth," a slow and poignant track that weaves out of "Reis Glories" as if picking up from where it leaves off. Jaymz Nylon is known more for his devotion to his heritage, which manifests in the form of Afro-garage, old school house and African or Latin jazz rhythms. Here, he pummels listeners with a minimalist techno number with distorted vocals that ring more like static disturbances than melodic voices. Joshua, aka DJ Iz's "Contre Tens" feels more like Joe Claussell meddling with Afro-Latin rhythms but is punctuated with a soaring church-like wail. New York's abstract beat scene duo, Wally and Swingsett's "Plain Chant" is the best track in this collection. The muddy sounding hip-hop beats make for a dangerous sound that is complemented by a memorable bass line and an unexpected drum solo. Equally kicking is New York's leading force of the drum & bass scene, DJ Dara, with "Bucta Bells"; a searing tune that starts quietly but builds unexpectedly, hitting where it feels best. The album ends with Soulslinger returning to the vibe set by Wally and Swingsett. It's all menacing raw beats and muddy bass refrains, before breaking into a junglist mode. This is probably one of the few instances where the attempt to bring together the seemingly antiquarian with experimental programming doesn't fall short. It's a subtle presence and the subtlety is done with sophistication. (Atomcandy)