The history of production duo Instra:mental starts with some well-received drum & bass singles at the start of the millenium, and includes a fallow period of six years prior to their reemergence in 2007. Since then, Alex Green and Damon Kirkham have had a lot to say, both together (with last year's Resolution 653 album) and apart (the former as Boddika and the latter as Jon Convex, among other guises). Their collaboration mirrors the tectonic evolution of UK dance music, and their timing—knowing when to hold back and when to burst forth—has granted them an uncommon longevity.
Kirkham continues the run of Jon Convex EPs he started last year with his latest for Martyn's 3024 imprint, Lied to Be Loved. The title track, featuring vocals from longtime associate and D&B overlord dBridge, is the clear highlight here, foregoing UK bass' predilection for intricately pitched and smeared vocal samples for a full-fledged, integral vocal. Granted, dBridge only has four lines to sing, but he pulls them off with a disconnected aplomb that fits with the lyrics' elliptical portrait. The track itself is similarly pared down to the essential: led by the interaction between a stepping drum pattern and a six-note sequence somewhere between bassline and lead, it's a dose of comfort food for the type of person who drops the term "hardcore continuum" on a regular basis.
"Zero" follows, releasing some of the energy that the title track purposely held back. While we're still nominally in UK bass territory here, its jerky beat unambiguously calls to mind Nina Kraviz's brand of deep/ghetto house—due in no small part to the sexy cyborg Sprechgesang vocals, chopped into a collage of inarticulate transitional sounds. Jon Convex rounds out the EP with another track featuring dBridge, "Stay." Its nondescript tech house is flawlessly produced if tepid, with dBridge's voice swathed in perfect synth-pad gusts, nudging you out the door.
This EP is the most restrained of Convex's releases thus far. It might also be his most varied, underneath the surface. The laid-back vibe just obscures the subtle experimentation here—and shows that he still knows when to lay out and when to join the conversation.