Fourward’s New Expansion LP Proves Neurofunk Can Still Be Fresh
Posted by Ben on 22nd October 2016
Austria has become a hotbed for the next breed of drum ‘n’ bass producers, and with some of the world’s freshest music being made in and around it’s pristine alpine slopes, it’s of no surprise that the four man outfit of destruction that is Fourward call the small nation home. They’re an act that have already become known for their gnarly beats and twisted production methods, and the news of their exclusive signing to Shogun Audio in 2013 generated a hefty amount of excitement for obvious reasons.
Now, when I first heard about this album project a part of me was worried that we’d end up with another load of stale, recyclable neurofunk that would be forgotten as soon as the next release came around. It’s a trend that’s been on the rise for a little while now, and I think any producers who make this kind of music need to be careful that they don’t fall victim to it. The way around this is for artists to add their own unique spin onto a somewhat played out formula, which is obviously easier said than done but something I think Fourward have managed here, and the result is an absolute rocket of an album.
The tune I want to talk about first is one that I took a shine to straight away, and is also a good example of how tempo variations are one of the best ways to spice up a heavy drum ‘n’ bass release. I can only imagine From East, featuring Pep, is what you’d get after blending Skepta’s forearm, blood from all 3 Noisia members and ash from Vesuvius’ eruption, because erupt is exactly what any room this track gets dropped in is going to do. Fourward have managed to amalgamate the harsh, urban sounds of grime with a halftime groove and bass music’s ugly underbelly, giving us a tune that will please both your little brother and your drug dealer.
Before we move onto some faster stuff I want to stay on the halftime wave for a second, partly because it’s a really fresh and interesting sound but mostly because Empty Soul, the second downtempo track on Expansion, is an absolute masterclass. The introductory vocals are smooth, melancholy, and add a really comforting melodic aspect whilst ensuring at this point in the tune you have no idea what’s coming up. When the switch up does come it’s simply fantastic, due in part to the all encompassing bass sound that feels like it’s being poured into your ears in liquid form, but also because of the murderous kick drum and snare partnership that’s as crisp as it is wonky. This one is begging to be slipped into the middle of a set, and Fourward have done a banging job.
One of my favourite tracks from this year so far is I Was by Emperor, a corker from his debut album earlier this year. The reason I’m mentioning that is because of the similarities to be heard between I Was and Sequencer, one of the tunes that was released slightly early and also one of the best Expansion has to offer. What I Was did so well was the relationship between the frantic synth lines and expansive lower end, something Fourward have done even better here. The suspense created in the buildup is otherworldly, and the clarity between all the different elements gives this number a real sense of machine like precision despite how much there is going on. So, so good.
There are a couple of collabs on Expansion and they’re both heavy, they both feature one of the biggest names in drum ‘n’ bass and I could write about either of them; but Everytime featuring Mefjus takes the cake. This partnership was always going to produce music that belongs in prison that much is clear, the only question being for what crime? In the case of Everytime the charges are disturbance of the peace, destruction of property and refusing to pull over when asked. Verdict? Guilty on all fucking counts, because what Fourward and Mefjus have created here is a relentless, unstoppable tirade of thick bass sounds and thumping drums that have complete disregard for the law. I won’t go into too much detail, but this track is absolutely guaranteed to get some serious playtime in clubs all over the place.
Expansion, for me, is a great example of how to do a neuro album the right way. As mentioned earlier there is so much unimaginative, uninspired stuff floating around that it’s easy to get bogged down and lose interest. Fourward have done well at taking a step away from that and differentiating themselves, partly because there’s four of them which is just awesome and also probably due to the implied prestige that comes with the Shogun Audio logo. But regardless of their contextual position in the scene as a whole, there’s no doubts to be had about the sonic quality of this album. It’s impeccably produced from start to finish, of course, but there’s great variety and a surprising amount of more harmonic aspects as well, something which will please those who, like me, love their lighter stuff too. Expansion is a quality piece of music, and Fourward have definitely taken their place alongside people like Camo & Krooked as one of the best drum ‘n’ bass exports to have ever come out of Austria.
1) Bite The Dust feat. Jakes
2) Belly Of The Beast
3) Run Your Mouth feat. Friction
4) Empty Soul
5) Beta Alpha Theta Delta
9) From East feat. Pep
10) Everytime feat. Mefjus
11) What If feat. Rene