Vandal Put Their Spin On Modern Soul For The Third Time

Posted by Ben on 19th July 2017

Vandal Records is a French label founded and run by SKS, with Redeyes. It’s not exactly a household name but certainly not small, having released music from big ‘uns such as S.P.Y, Hyroglifics and Random Movement. Generally orientating towards the heavier side, Vandal is one of those labels that won’t constantly pop up if you don’t follow them and make a bit of an effort, something I highly recommend doing.

The release in question here came out through sub-label Vandal LTD, and aims to showcase the lighter side of things Vandal’s little sibling pushes so well. Modern Soul features names you might not but definitely should know, including up and comers like Monty and Shield, plus Lenzman, Redeyes and Andrezz amongst others. This compilation is in its third year of summer mood brightening, so here’s a closer look at what makes the series tick.

Home Run by Kabuki stands out from the rest because it isn’t drum n bass. It’s almost like SKS and Redeyes got sent this, knew it wouldn’t fit in but decided fuck it, let’s whack it in anyway because it simply sounds amazing. I’m really happy they did, as Kabuki takes us down a tempo dive into luxurious hip-hop territory, layering tight drums and a vibrant double bass with distinct precision. It doesn’t sound it though, with the sheer relaxation emanating throughout overcoming any thoughts of hard work and whilst Home Run isn’t drum n bass, it ticks all the right boxes for modern soul.

As Kabuki’s slow-town soul transitions to rolling funk, quick paced jazzy vibes are a constant here. Redeyes is an expert on that front, and appears as both an original creator and a subject of the Lenzman treatment. The latter is especially potent as the Amsterdam-born soul merchant is a breezy fit for this album, What She Wants’ jaunty, off-beat piano chords oozing classic Lenzman, more coffee shop than club but still possessing a sharp percussive edge. 808 Girls is the Redeyes original, and whilst I’m not sure how many girls would find the Roland 808 drum sound sexy; he makes you believe it’s so. This track drapes a wispy vocal sample over yet more full-bodied piano, sleek instrumentation and creeping chord progressions. A real stroller.

Yet more tempo switch-ups and we’re down to 85bpm for Shield and SotilasSkippy Vinyl was an immediate hit at Ninja Ninja, using a sample found on Youtube to balance light and heavy with swaggering charm. As it pushes downwards from those gloriously smooth highs into funky lows Shield’s classical training shines through, injecting sheer quality into a beat-ridden halftime stepper.

Sotilas isn’t an artist I’m intimately familiar with, but Swerve is nothing else if not sonic motivation to change that fact; a groaning, uncomfortable intro giving way to a halftime groove edged by flaunting piano keys, stitched together around a rhythmically rich backdrop. Dripping with summer flavours and reminiscent of sunny car journeys, Sotilas fuses melodic ambience with a hard-to-ignore punchiness, representing the halftime crew with fresh eyes and ears.

Despite the laidback insouciance of the previous,  Modern Soul Vol. 3 is packing down below as well and two artists who know how to do heavy are CRIMES and Arkaik. 20/20’s very own add their sound to the mix, having constructed another slotting halftime cut around earthy, tonal bass notes. What’s lacking in length is made up for in depth, and the shortness will have you hammering that replay button. Arkaik have come out with my personal favourite bassline on the album, an all-encompassing sinew of low frequency subtlety, driven by crisp drums and rattling breaks. Still possessing enough funk to feel natural in its context, Only Me is a biting glance at soulful drum n bass.

This year Vandal have come out with a genuinely interesting, unique and diverse take on the usual drum n bass summer sounds. Covering a host of bases, including non-dnb flavours, SKS and Redeyes deserve recognition for the impeccable selection they’ve put together. Their timing is also excellent considering the surge of fantastic liquid music that’s arisen recently, via labels such as The North Quarter, 1985 Music and of course all the regulars. Backed up against this context, Modern Soul Vol. 3 holds its own and then some.

Buy the album here, and listen to the tunes not mentioned below.

AndrezzArkaikCRIMESLenzmanMontyRedeyesShieldSKSSotilasVandal Records

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