After rocking distinctly laid-back, high-definition, sultry UKG the past couple of years, throughout releases with UK-based collectives PRISM and Brotherhood, 2014 saw Londoner Ashley Thomas, PKA Otik, start migrating towards a tougher sound with “Rough Patch” (his contribution to Infinite Machine’s third anniversary compilation).
A few months later, his metamorphosis is complete – his keen ear for tenebrous, yet lilting harmony repurposed for peerless retrofitting of ‘92-’94-era jungle. Our seventh main series catalogue entry sees Otik lambasting public misconceptions about what exactly constitutes jungle, and doing so by exemplifying jungle at its peak, yet with the modern dancefloor in mind. Interpolating some choice words from MC Det and Remarc about the prior bastardization of jungle as a mere politically-charged promotional buzzword for drum & bass, and its current faithful resurgence, Ash does not aim to be nostalgic, but educational.
The title track emphasizes (pun intended) the freedom and versatility inherent in heyday jungle – slap an amen atop a sinewy sub reese, and the rest is carte blanche. In the case of “Emphasis”, Otik opts to interweave dramatic helium diva cuts with exquisitely musical percussion and devious flanged interjections. The resulting track is an eventful, Mach 5 club affair, breathtakingly urgent despite its comparatively tame bpm. Companion track “Witness” then proceeds to espouse many a jungle mainstay alongside a thoroughly broken beat and a devilish chant of “you were there, so was I” (hence the title) – seemingly casting off aspersions of Ashley’s prodigiousness precluding him from having partaken in the jungle phenomenon at its inception. The movement is timeless, however, he insists, both in intent and execution.
The remix tip is our most bountiful yet, sporting five reworks from both our camp and allied camps. Mutual Friend tackles “Witness” with his characteristic frenzied glee, employing oldskool junglist timestretching traditions to their logical extreme, demolishing and rebuilding the track in real time, with an oddly danceable subliminal pulse. Liar’s Optimix™ of “Emphasis” is a constantly flanging, phasing and recursively modulating mess of gutter electro that aims to connect the dots between jungle, ‘ardkore and, to a lesser extent, later nu-skool breaks/big beat. And, as always, it’s a Tessier-Ashpool exemplar.
Majora and Cloaka then take “Witness” and “Emphasis”, respectively, deep into the murk – the former via a steppy, urbane stroll, rife with sci-noir flair, and the latter via the tribal tech narrative of a soundboy’s execution. Wallwork & RZR take it home with their driven, test-tone-ridden, faithful renovation of “Witness”.