For the better part of the last 20 years, Brian Foote has been behind the scenes and at the perimeter of the stage, calmly making sure everything goes smoothly. With work for both the celebrated Kranky label as well as his own Peak Oil imprint, studio credits ranging from production for Zola Jesus to drum programming for a pre-Ableton Stephen Malkmus, or catch-all auxiliary electronics duties in Valet, Fontanelle, and a touring configuration of Atlas Sound, Foote’s roles tend towards the understated but indispensable. A patient, exacting approach guided even the mossiest work from his electro-acoustic collective Nudge, and he applies that same precision to Data Horde, the first full-length from his dancefloor-minded alias Leech.
In the liner notes for a Leech cassette release from 2017, Foote shouted out trailblazing early ’90s UK jungle labels Moving Shadow and Good Looking Records, and some of the material feels influenced by jungle’s early, more minimal days. With Data Horde, Foote pays more direct tribute, exfoliating his tracks until the skeletal elements of dissected drum’n’bass are left in a vast, empty field. Within these dubby, wide-open spaces, Foote steadily unravels tightly controlled productions.
As the title might imply, Data Horde has a labored-over feel, as if the sessions were refined repeatedly over the course of months or even years. The slowly blooming first few minutes of “Nimble” feel disorienting until accumulating layers of polyrhythms and interlocking synth lines click into place to reveal the purpose of every sound. Clearly a fascinated student of techno history, Foote plays with the boundaries of where one microscopic subgenre of electronic music becomes another. A brief passage of fuzzy bass stumbling drunkenly through choppy drum patterns in “Bit Rot” suggests IDM, but stops short before making any predictable moves. Vaguely familiar jungle breaks slither in and out of focus and acid basslines drool across “Delysid,” rolling in waves of anticipatory tension that never fully break. In every track, the expected turn is sidestepped, and the drop never happens.
Most interestingly, even with its nods to rave’s early prime, Data Horde is neither a nostalgic love letter to the golden era of drum’n’bass or an academicized archeological dig of a ’92 warehouse party. Foote aims for a specific sweet spot of jungle’s gilded days, but also explores beyond those constraints. With the same steadfast demeanor that touches all of Foote’s work, his first fully formed collection of Leech material creates a breathing environment where fragments of the past joyously corrode into whatever comes next.