This album is an honest representation of where I’m at musically. I wanted it to have a distinct beginning, middle and end and for it to convey a filmic, atmospheric journey. Every vocalist I sourced for my album was chosen carefully as people who I have big admiration for and wanted to work with for their unique qualities. It was important to have as an authentic cinematic sound to the album as possible, so every spoken word was recorded by established voice actors.
I’ve had the Metrik album for about two weeks now. I received it just about a week before it was officially released, and I listened to it. I listened to it over, and over, and over again. I’m at a point with Drum & Bass where I can feel that it belongs to me. It’s the genre that I technically started out with, listening to Pendulum back in 2006. It’s a genre which has such enormous diversity that you can sometimes lose yourself in it. Is this track neuro? Or is it jump up? Jungle, perhaps? Liquid, breakbeat, traditional dnb, the list goes on and on.
Metrik has done something special with this album. You can feel in your gut, in the deepest part of your subconscious, that each and every track is Drum & Bass at its core — you can feel it. When you take a deeper look at each track individually, however, a greater scheme emerges. Little bits of various influences find themselves merged with and manipulating the sound. Whether at first you notice the cinematic elements, or the call backs to 80s and 90s techno, or perhaps even the minimalism that is so carefully designed, the more you listen to Universal Language, the more it speaks to you.
The title itself is quite fitting. “Universal Language” not only implies that everyone can speak it, but that it can be understood by everyone, as well. Universal Language strives to break boundaries and barriers of those who may not listen to Drum & Bass, or even just Metrik’s music itself. Very often, Drum & Bass is a difficult genre to get in to — its diverse patterns and trends can be confusing, especially considering the genre has been going strong for more than 25 years. This album comes as an introduction, a guide through which some might find enlightenment, and others might find the courage to delve deeper.
Prior to writing this article, I listened to the album once again with Metrik’s own words guiding my experience. So different was my experience this time, listening to it through Metrik’s words, that I began to doubt whether I could even offer any further examination of the album that he hadn’t already exposed. Still, a listener’s perspective can be valuable. Without further ado, Universal Language…
1. Universal Language
I wrote this track to be the intro. I knew exactly how I wanted it to be with an intense, euphoric wall of sound leading into a high impact drop. I felt like the album needed to start with a bold statement and this was the best way to start the journey. The vocal “music is my weapon, music is the universal language” was the perfect way to lead and felt like a very resolute and succinct way to bind the whole project together.
Everything about this track screams “play me first.” The uplifting synths in the rise, the swirling sounds in the very beginning, the suspense leading up to the drop, everything. The various tempo changes throughout the track lend to the fact that this album lacks a degree of consistency — there is nothing you can expect from this album other than Metrik’s own brand of sound.
2. Human Again (feat. Jan Burton)
Human Again was actually the first track I started when I signed to Hospital back in October 2012. The original idea was very ethereal and downtempo taking influence from Brian Eno. The track was since developed into something more dance floor orientated. In the Summer of 2013 I did a week-long session with Jan Burton in my South London studio and this was one of the tracks we worked on. He nailed the vibe and gave it the distinctive vocal I was looking for. I had originally intended for this track to be the outro to the album (hence the very atmospheric fade down) but we were keen on releasing it as one of the lead singles, so it made more sense to put it upfront.
After the powerful first track, ‘Human Again’ comes as a breath of fresh air. It is here that the album truly begins. The beautiful vocals from Jan Burton provide a sense of human emotion, and the lyrics are unifying in their message. The liquid bassline provides a separation from the first track, something that only Drum & Bass can really achieve.
3. Want My Love (feat. Elisabeth Troy)
I wanted to try something minimal straddling somewhere in-between house and techno. I deployed my usual sound palette and stripped everything down to the most key, important elements letting the melody and groove do the work. Elisabeth was someone who I really wanted to work with and was so happy to get her onboard. She arrived at my studio and smashed the vocal in one take – I had goosebumps recording her and knew she was delivering something special. The track is one of my favourites on the album and gets an amazing reaction when I play it live.
Metrik worked hard in arranging the tracklist for this album, ensuring that each track had its own place in the set. Following the first vocal track with another provides a little bit of stability for listeners, even though the general tone of the track is completely different.
This track actually started off as a bootleg of Cirez D – On Off. It was getting such a big reaction in my sets that I started to think about turning it into an original track of my own. This track was always like a Drift pt. 2 to me. I have a lot of fun playing with groove based elements and approaching a d’n’b tune like a techno tune. This track encapsulates that approach and is an important part of the Metrik sound.
As was pointed out, experimentation was a huge factor in this album, as well as having a distinct sound to it. Balancing the two can be difficult, but when done properly can cultivate wondrous results.
5. Make The Floor Burn
Being heavily inspired by 90’s rave music by the likes of The Prodigy, Basement, R&S Records and Underground Resistance it made total sense to try something in this style. This track began as an experiment, and actually took the least amount of time to write, completing it start to finish in about 2 hours. It is quite different to my usual output but as part of the album it makes sense as an exploration of my influences.
This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, simply because it is so wildly different from anything else on the album. But like Metrik said, in the context of the album, it makes perfect sense. There is an underlying influence of jungle in the drums, but that’s about it.
6. Starchaser (feat. Rocky Nti)
I wrote this track whilst I was on holiday by the pool with just my laptop and a cold beer. I wanted to make something that was ultra-euphoric with a very 80’s edge. I sourced a lot of 80’s drum sounds and called in a lot of my house influences. This type of melodic track is me working very much in my comfort zone. Rocky Nti was a singer I really wanted to work with (after hearing his work with Etherwood) and got him into my studio to try out some toplines. What we got was a vocal which deals with sticking together through an apocalypse – I like it when lyrics juxtapose the vibe of a tune.
I would say that this track has the most influence from other Hospital artists such as Danny Byrd or S.P.Y., maybe even Fred V & Grafix. The bouncy bassline sounds great with the DnB drums, and Rocky Nti’s vocals are absolutely incredible.
Believe was first aired in my 2013 Essential Mix and has a lot of typical Metrik elements with soaring melodies and arpeggiated hooks. Very house inspired and euphoric. This was another of the tracks that I worked on with Jan during our Summer recording session – he added just the right out of vocal hook the track needed. I considered going down a fuller song-based direction but decided it would work better with simpler arrangement.
Even though Metrik states that the track is simple, it sounds anything but simple. From the incredibly “euphoric” sounds to the brilliantly arranged drums, it’s a wonderful track. Jan’s vocals once again add a deeper dimension to the track that just wouldn’t be there without it.
8. Resonate (feat. ShockOne)
Following a chat at a festival in Perth on New Year’s Eve, Karl and I decided to lock down a session and work on a track for my album. It started with an Underworld-esque lead melody taken from one of my unfinished track ideas. We developed this by infusing vibes of The Beatles and Chemical Brothers, jamming on instruments and reversing sitars etc. We wanted Resonate to break away from the typical modern d’n’b structure so went for a long, progressive arrangement. Thematically it explores the idea of lucid dreaming, inspired by the film Waking Life. We re-wrote the vocal and got in touch with Tom Clarke-Hill, a famous voice actor, to record it. This track is actually one of the most technically intricate on the album with many background details and elaborate automations.
I really love ShockOne; his Universus album is one of my favorites and I was really excited to see what he and Metrik could produce together. In fact, Reija Lee and Kyza, two vocalists on Universus, are also featured on Universal Language. With all of that known, I had high hopes for whatever they put out.
I wanted to make a track that was very simply based around an arpeggiated melodic hook with lush chords and minimal drums. There’s only 5 elements to the drum mix and I wanted the whole track to be very dreamy and open. The “close those eyes” vocal is a snippet from one of the songs we recorded during one of the sessions with Jan that we didn’t end up using. It fitted the track well and gave it the extra dimension it needed. The harmonised backing vocals in the second section of the track are actually me singing!
Once again, Metrik speaks about simplicity; I figure we must have different definitions of the word, or I’m too enamored with the whole project to think clearly. Either way, after reading his thoughts and listening for the arpeggio and focusing on it, the track definitely opens up in a new way.
I was listening to the works of Thomas Newman, in particular The Road To Perdition and American Beauty soundtracks. He is the master at creating a mood from a simple ethereal pad and a soft piano line. This was my main point of reference for writing Borealis, again stripping back the instrumentation and opting for something a lot more open letting the musical elements breathe. This is one of the more filmic tracks on the album and I focused a lot on the sound design in the individual pads and atmospheres, trying to get everything to sound as natural and analogue as possible. Karra delivered a beautifully chilling vocal which fitted the track amazingly.
Once again, another very experimental track that focuses on a very large sound. Though Karra is not credited in the tracklist, her contribution is necessary to the sound of the track. ‘Borealis’ in particular is extremely minimal and emotive, without many distracting sounds or elements, instead choosing to hone in on Karra’s vocals.
I’m a huge Bjork fan and this track originally contained a sample of her, hence the name Reykjavik (which is where she is from). Sadly I had to take out the sample but I kept the name as it really suited the vibe of the track. I try to create a picture or set a scene with music and really got into the filmic zone with this track going for an epic atmosphere with some unusual textures. A vintage Juno 106 synthesizer features in the latter part of the track and I really wanted to capture a similar humanized feel that Ulrich Schnauss gets in his tracks by using analogue emulations and detuned instruments to create the effect.
The vocal hook along with the booming bass and scintillating keys are really incredible features of the track, letting the drums take a backseat for the better of the first half of the track.
12. Aftermath (feat. Kyza)
I wanted to step out of the drum & bass bracket and try something which was half-time at 90bpm. I basically wrote this track with Kyza’s vocal in mind. I wanted to make an apocalyptic sounding hiphop tune with an intense, high impact drop for the clubs. I had in my mind the scene of driving through a city late at night with this track and the Drive soundtrack played a part in inspiring the mood. When Kyza sent back his vocal it was a no-brainer that it was perfect for the track. I wanted to contrast the feel of the early stage of the track by putting in a euphoric breakdown so I added in synthesized guitar and pads to add to the soundscape.
The peacefulness of Reykjavik is immediately interrupted by the harsh vocals from Kyza, and the track proceeds to bounce to a rhythm not featured anywhere else on the album. The juxtaposition of the breakdown with both halves of the track is unexpected, but works brilliantly as a tie-in to the rest of the album, somewhat a way of saying, “Hey, I’m still here.”
13. What’s Out There?
This track came about after watching the Spike Jonze film “Her”. I was very inspired by the mood and atmosphere he created and the soundtrack really fits the futuristic feel of the film. I wanted to try and bottle some of this vibe and put it into the track. The track doesn’t contain any samples, the spoken word vocal is actually my reinterpretation of the OS1 promo video, I got in Hollywood trailer actor Randall Lee Jones to record the lines. The drop was an opportunity to try something very stripped back and minimal but with big production. The contrast from maximal to minimal is the key feature of this track as well as the groove relationship between the drums and the bass.
My favorite track on the album. The energy, the rhythm, the overall tone of the track just resonate with me. There’s nothing that especially stands out about the track to me, I just really, really like it.
14. Dream Sequence
Again, going down a filmic route with this one. I felt at this point the album needed a bit of a pause for breath to set it up for the finale (Freefall VIP). I had a lot of fun working on the sound design and creating an atmosphere with the pads and strings. Also experimenting around with some synthesis to get some unusual textures. The chords frame Reija’s vocals in a different emotional context and builds up the anticipation for what comes next.
This track comes as a sort of interlude before the final track. I would love to be able to have Freefall VIP play automatically after you listen to this track, as they are meant to be heard together, but alas. It’s not meant to be a full track, but rather a little breather to get you in the right mindset for the finale of the album, and especially a rest after What’s Out There.
15. Freefall VIP (feat. Reija Lee)
I couldn’t imagine my debut album without this track. It has been such an integral part of my sound over the last few years and one that embodies the Metrik sound. Going to Tokyo had a profound impact on me, I saw how much love this track got and it reminded me why it was so important to put it on the album.
This sounds like a perfect song to end the album on. Its importance to Metrik and to his fans make it a final “period” on the story that has been Universal Language.
You can purchase Universal Language on iTunes HERE.