Of all the genres that found popularity in the EDM age, drum and bass seems like the most under-appreciated. While a number of top notch producers keep the scene going strong, the forward thinking genre tends to be overlooked by all but the purest of dance music fans. But this may be the year all that changes as Belgian drum and bass producer Netsky drops his excellent new album 3, a follow up to his last LP released four years ago.
On 3, Netsky crafts expertly produced breakbeats that serve as the power behind uplifting drum and bass tunes. The heavy use of soulful vocal collaborators and soaring, organic instrumentation brings a human element to the frantically paced drum excursions, and Netsky manages to create a cohesive sounding album that holds together as a singular work. The majority of the tracks on the album feature guest artists, too, with Jauz, Chromeo and a number of vocalists joining up with the producer to complete his newest record.
Netsky opens the new album with vocalist Emeli Sandé on their previously heard collaboration, a riveting drum and bass exercise titled “Thunder.” Earthly orchestral strings introduce the effort, setting the mood for Sandé’s powerful vocal delivery. The songs on 3 tend to take a roller coaster approach to song structure, and “Thunder” is no exception as pounding drum hits and somber synths form a high energy start.
“Rio” is next and serves as one of 3‘s highlights, with soulful synth chords, grime-y basslines and exuberant horns set against a vibrant breakbeat pattern. Netsky takes a terraced approach to the drums on “Rio,” switching between half-step beats and quick hitting dnb grooves. The simple structure and light vocals make this song one of the album’s catchiest and it easily stands up as one of our favorites.
With massive Sam Smith-esque vocals and a rousing string section, Netsky delivers a liquid funk anthem on “Who Knows,” featuring Paige. A plodding piano progression and quiet ambiance lead into the drops, which pack a punch with rapid drum parts and distorted bass sounds.
“GO 2” follows and is a chilled-out house tune driven by a swanky synth pluck and smooth vocals. The sparse production is led by a lazy four on the floor beat that later morphs into a clanking break as hazy synths and gentle melodies echo in the distance. The funky vibes heard on “GO 2” are indicative of the heavy R&B influence felt throughout 3‘s tracklist, and it serves as one of the best examples of this direction.
“High Alert” is another cut that drops the high energy drums in favor of mid tempo rhythms, resulting in one of the most pop friendly songs on the album. Fuzzy basslines buzz beneath chopped up vocal melodies and moving drum programming, while Sara Hartman’s pleasing vocal delivery takes “High Alert” into summer anthem territory. It’s not hard to imagine Netsky commanding the attention of pop audiences on a track like “High Alert” the way Major Lazer and The Chainsmokers have in the past.
“Forget What You Look Like” is one of the more striking selections from the album, as deep ambient chords swell behind Lowell’s piercing vocals. The synth work throughout the track is impressive, taking a gorgeous but unexpected turn into future bass territory with rolling snares, booming kicks and an emotive melody.
“Bird Of Paradise” is a jazzy number, complete with drifting Rhodes piano and sizzling drums. A filtered beat starts to grow in intensity as a voice leads into the drop. Netsky’s frenetic drum programming explodes alongside an orchestral motif, creating a sharp dynamic in contrast to the low-key introduction. A deep piano progression then dominates the second half of the song, serving as the emotional anchor for the sprawling composition.
For the album’s closer, Netsky enlists some production assistance from Jauz and the two deliver a future house cut titled “Higher.” Faithful to the vibe that runs throughout 3, “Higher” sports catchy pitch-shifted vocals, hand percussion and a rubbery bassline while toning the DNB tempos down to something more fit for the club scene. The two producers mesh well on “Higher” and their efforts together should satisfy fan expectations.
In an era where most producers struggle to justify the lengths of their EPs, Netsky manages to conjure up the magic of the album format on 3 while delivering a memorable record that’s heavy on tunes. The producer balances his upbeat liquid funk tracks with plenty of genre experimentation, and the album benefits as a whole from these additions that help to introduce some rhythmic diversity into the mix. From a songwriting perspective, the vocal contributions on 3 help the album achieve its full potential, with each guest singer complimenting the production very well.
The album’s strength really lies in its sense of pop friendly composition though, featuring sparse but deep productions that range from dreamy vocal driven passages to drum interludes crashing at breakneck speeds. Netsky brings his A game to the productions on 3, striking the a careful balance between rhythmic energy and rare beauty. Greater than the sum of its parts, 3 represents a major achievement for Netsky, who hones in his style with an assortment of top notch songs that have something to offer all walks of listeners.
On his latest album, 3, Netsky delivers twelve top notch dance songs ranging from his signature liquid funk style to house and pop oriented tunes. Working with a number of collaborators, the Belgian producer crafts a cohesive record with a deep melodic appeal and a penchant to erupt in high energy drum excursions.