Hamilton Scalpel: “Uprated Nite Zone”

Drum’n’bass and jungle were supposed to be dead. At least that’s what the dance music cognoscenti told us for the better part of the past 15 years.

Of course, this music never truly disappeared , and when it comes to electronic music, “dead” is often a relative term. In reality, it’s usually just a matter of time before the spotlight comes swinging back around. After all, now that trance—a genre that was once all but radioactive for most artists not named Tiësto—has come back into fashion, it’s clear that all options are on the table.

“Uprated Nite Zone” is a hyperactive jungle rumbler with seemingly anonymous origins, although a bit of investigation appears to indicate that it’s actually the work of Scottish duo Clouds, who’ve been making quality techno for the past decade. (They’ve also been exploring the joys of UK hardcore and, yes, trance as of late with their Headstrong label, which the pair run in tandem with London producer Randomer.)

Last year, Clouds released an ambitious LP on Electric Deluxe called Heavy the Eclipse, a concept album set in a drug- and violence-ravaged future in which their hometown of Glasgow has been acquired by a German-speaking conglomerate that has incorporated the city into a new civic entity known as Neurealm.

Although the Hamilton Scalpel 12″ has been released on a new imprint called Concrete Cabin, it’s billed as a “covert transmission from the outskirts of Neurealm,” an easter egg that recalls the mystery that characterized much of the early rave era. Nostalgic? Absolutely. But the music here is also raucous, full of energy, and, most importantly, fun. Furthermore, it sounds fresh, especially when its furiously shuddering percussion is held up against the rigid, identikit house and techno that’s being turned out in bulk these days.

To be clear, the Hamilton Scalpel project isn’t some sort of outlier. Artists like dBridge, Alix Perez, and Sully are all making excellent drum’n’bass tunes, while labels such as Western Lore, Cosmic Bridge, and Astrophonica are just a few of the reliable hubs for these sounds. This music is in a particularly fertile place right now—leave it to the pundits to debate whether jungle is back from the grave or if tastemakers have simply started paying attention again.

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