Thursday, 31 January 2013

Digital & Spirit - Phantom Force


Digital & Spirit - Phantom Force (Phantom Audio, 1999)

As I mentioned in my post about Total Science's 'Jet Set', the turn of the millennium saw a major revival of the early nineties hardcore sound. While Total Science tended to lean towards the euphoric side of things, Digital & Spirit were more influenced by the Darkcore style which they filtered through the minimal aesthetic of late nineties drum'n'bass, also adding a heavy dub influence. While 'Phantom Force' was only Digital & Spirit's second collaborative release and the first on their own Phantom Audio label, they had both been on the scene for a number of years with Digital's earliest 12"s dating back to 1994.

The dark vibe is established from the start with horror movie-style suspenseful strings which sound like they were sampled from this mix of The Shamen's 'LSI'. The strings fluctuate in pitch as strange noises and voices lurk in the background before the break from Dyke & The Blazers 'Let A Woman Be A Woman, Let A Man Be A Man' (check at around 1:45) comes in. The incredible bassline has a percussive quality to it and has been described as a knock knock bass due to its harsh staccato stabs. Spirit himself has revealed that this sound originated with a bass guitar that was then treated to some experimentation with pitch shifting and EQing. After the breakdown the track is given extra propulsion by the addition of a second generation break, constructed out of the 'Think' break by Mark The 45 King on 'Movin' from his Master Of The Game LP and later used on Latee's 'This Cut's Got Flavor'.

While the track has a clear debt to the darkcore style it's an innovative piece which has been much imitated by others. It was a favourite of Andy C and I saw him drop it as his first tune at the One Nation Bank Holiday Special in August 1999, where it quickly got the rewind. Have a listen to that set here, with IC3, Moose and 5ive-0 on the mic.

You can purchase an mp3 of 'Phantom Force' over at Drum&BassArena, where it features on the excellent Digital retrospective Spacefunk - The Archives 1995-2008.

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