Sonik Presha and Vinyl Richie’s Druid Records, based in the UK, is one of those great D&B sleeper cells who seem to materialize hits seemingly from nowhere. In their near decade of operation, they’ve debuted or boosted some of the most respected names in drum & bass like Agressor Bunx, Void, Kaiza, Volatile Cycle, Redpill, 2Whales and Tobax. From that list alone, it’s clear their A&R team knows its stuff.
Now with the relatively new but clearly talented Austrian duo’s surprising liquid hit “Holding On” topping Druid’s Beatport top 10 list for eight months running, it seems only good business to do some remixes and a VIP. It’s also good art, as the “Holding On” remix EP, due out this Friday, has yielded four excellent new stand alone tracks. They’re so good, in fact, we asked to premiere two of them.
The original “Holding On” featuring Sammie Hall was a bit of a breakaway track for Cranium, who up until that point had been producing mostly tight, heavy, snarey neurofunk. With releases on the German dark bass label Hanzom Music and Neonlight’s DIASCOPE, most fans probably thought they knew where Cranium’s style was headed. To say that “Holding On” was a surprise is a pretty big understatement. It nonetheless clearly has done well both for the artists and their also normally neuro label. With a bouncy, deceptively simple beat, vapor wave-style synths and a ravey piano interlude, Sammie Hall’s vocals take the perfectly balanced track that extra step higher that’s what earned “Holding On” its hit status.
If anyone thought Cranium had abandoned neurofunk for liquid with “Holding On,” they only need to look to the VIP on the remix EP to know that’s not true. Tuned way down to a sinister minor key and with crunchy synths, laser sounds and a brutal hi hat applied to a slightly heavier beat, Cranium shows fans how related all the subgenres really are by turning the stems completely on their heads with this dark, heavy antithesis to the original. With this VIP, Cranium are out of the liquid world just as quickly and seamlessly as they entered it.
Druid label mainstay Sola created a dancefloor remix that’s also a bit dark and dangerous, with lots of backstitch syncopation and a similar key to the original. It again shows how many styles of track can come from the same stems, along with our premieres today, the remixes from Nickbee and Airglo.
Again, these two remixes are so different that unless one hears them side by side, one wouldn’t even notice they’re from the same stems as the original, and certainly not the VIP. Nickbee’s mix pitches the whole track down but it’s far from minimal, swelling with heavy, melodic synths as he chops up the original synths to create more staggered syncopation and injects some breathtaking and cinematic ambient sound design.
Airglo’s remix once again turns the original on its ear, pitching down Hall’s vox so much that it sounds like a completely different singer. Dark, cinematic, trippy and ambient is the style of this remix, with classical prodigy Airglo’s composition skills on full flex as he crowds the staff with sub bass and complex keys. Deep D&B doesn’t even cover it; this remix has broke the subgenre barrier.
It’s clear with the “Holding On” EP and indeed even with the original single that Cranium and Druid wanted to thumb their collective noses at the divisiveness that can sometimes happen between subgenres. That’s the glory of the remix in its truest form, really. With a few tweaks, an artist can show argumentative punters how their favorite, genre-defining track can be turned into something else entirely: another subgenre or even something completely indefinable. The way music unites us will always be stronger than the ways in which music fans divide us. Let’s try to remember that.
The “Holding On” remix EP drops Friday, August 27 on Druid Records. Click here to pre-order.