It’s the year of the drum and bass album. As the plethora of LP’s from various artists continues to pour out, there’s one man that always manages to grasp the anticipation of all without failing to deliver or sacrificing his integrity. That man goes by the name of Calibre. A well known artist among the drum and bass community that carved a small space of his own that manages to sit atop drum and bass’ biggest labels/artists. With a flawless back catalogue that’s continuously growing, Calibre is one of a handful of artists that truly put every bit of themselves into their work and ultimately release that creative output due to public demand. With a self-indulgent mentality and non-existent ego, Calibre is a true creator and whether it’s a self-drawn piece of cover art, a song, or another way of outputting his creativity; it’s always distinctly Calibre.
In a time when music is incredibly disposable and listeners feel the right to dictate the creative direction of artists, Calibre can shift tempos, styles, performance methods, and more without ever sacrificing his artistic integrity or fans. As great as it is that we’ve had such a high frequency of drum and bass albums, unfortunately many of them are homogenous and get lost to two-to-three stand out tracks that receive heavy rotation. Contrastingly, Calibre is a man who is not bound by that effect. Spill is very much so Calibre and a bit more feel-good in comparison to previous albums. Even though it doesn’t deviate in style much and has a homogenous sound; that’s where it ultimately succeeds. Without discrediting the work of other drum and bass artists’, that’s what separates Calibre from most and is what puts him among the top with drum and bass’ elite. Spill is 13 tracks of pure, uncompromised, and just beautiful music created by an individual that manages to express what they feel in a way that resonates with listeners unlike any other artist. There is a distinct vibe when you hear a Calibre track; you know it and can feel it.
Spill is that in every way. Spill is rich, flavourful, soulful, and is a passionate collection of work that conveys varying emotions while managing to keep you relaxed and fixated on the vibes flowing through your ears.
Opening with “Dema Beats,” up/down snare hits play off each other and hammer along a salacious rolling bassline with a reverberating synth chord and warped-running hi-hats that set a contemplative tone that raises your curiousity. In true Calibre fashion, “Dema Beats” moves throughout your whole body and steals your attention whilst demanding you to prepare yourself for a 13 track emotional, intellectual, and sensational ride.
Thoughts having turned to action, Spill continues with “Running.” An energetic and emotional combination consisting of a captivating Spanish guitar lick, warm-booming kick drums, the soft yet loosely sung vocals of Calibre, and warped backbeats that are reflective of your doubts whilst you run and leave everything behind.
“Running” doesn’t come without reflection though and the journey continues with “Think On.” Smooth minor keys and constant bouncing synths accompanied with the soft echoing whispers of the man himself wrap around yet another warm double bass infused roller. “Think On” feels very much so like Calibre as its heavy, yet hits softly, soothes the senses, and sparks the soul. You’re not quite sure what to do but you know you must follow your senses on this journey, but also “Keep Control.”
“Keep Control” is where Spill takes a direction more reminiscent of the reclusive thinker behind this album. Ominous-warping horns, towering drums, and a trudging bassline nod along to the sounds of distant moans and strings whilst a returning vocal sample reminds you to “Keep Control.”
Emerging from the darkness, light shines and a sense of yearning becomes prominent. Dancing chimes and airy synths form the atmospheric background of “Close To Me” while splashing hi-hats, cracking rim shots, and a repeating oscillating bassline makeup the foreground.
Continuing on and taking almost a more Daft Punk esque feel. The now talk boxed Irishman sings a slow melody along widening synth & bass stabs to create a futuristic yet rustic groove with a cracking drum break and jumping hi-hats on “Cully Bridge.” A sense of forgiveness and opportunity feel apparent on the lighter yet still groovingly reflective sounds of “Cully Bridge” before entering a more foundry setting tone on “Simple Things.”
Once again we are thrown into the darker, reminiscent, and more reclusive sounds of the creator on the slowed down yet very much so bass heavy vibes of “Start Again” that feature the accompaniment of Manchester based Chimpo. A thumping and envelope widening bassline infused with wobbles and slicing synths pour weight out of the speakers; while raising the intensity of MC Chimpo’s vocals.“Start Again” is a slower offering with its light crisp snares and ever-changing hi-hats that help move the weighty growler along without taking away from the highlighting bassline. Being one of two tracks that were promoted pre-release, it’s already a fan favourite among many and has been making the rounds among liquid/soul producers.
Following “Start Again,” Spill continues with more reclusive and reflective vibes on “Dont’ Turn On Me” and “Wilderness” featuring Steo. Minor keys, thumping kicks, and another beautifully hi-hat infused break assemble into a soft yet thought provoking roller that’s pushed along by repeating piano riffs and vocals on “Don’t Turn On Me.” While underlying strings and the smooth whispers of Steo move in pas de deux with a soul soothing bassline and brainstorming drum break on “Wilderness.” Both tunes are distinctly Calibre and again resonate in a way that enters through your ears but exits through your soul. They’re simply beautiful in every way much like the rest of Spill.
Spill then rounds out with three tracks that just widen your eyes, perspective, and smile through innovative and unique percussion patterns blending with soulful keys, strings, and basslines. On the well known “Key Flix,” a fat low end and lead piano keys inject energy into the track while two different drum break’s play in your left and right ears and cleverly fuse at the centre to grip your senses for the tracks entirety. “Paragov” follows “Key Flix” and much can’t be said about this track without sounding repetitive in relation to the rest of the review, but don’t take that as a negative. This track should most definitely be heard and simply is just too good for words. Again, in a time when artists find themselves bound by creative boxes; the fact that Calibre can release something so distinctly him and still captivate listeners is a testament to his mastery.
Lastly, Spill ends with “Sick of It All.” Our emotional and adventurous ride comes to a close with echoing synth stabs and vocals, ticking hats, and flickering piano keys before unexpectedly dropping into a sonic explosion of raw emotional energy that’s elevated with pitched down and stretching vocals that contrast the manically-transformative backbeats. One gets the feeling that after all that they’ve endured listening through Spill that maybe a resolution wasn’t reached and that our journey served no purpose. Feeling “Sick of It All,” the album closes on a reflective and distant tone that leaves the listener feeling satisfied yet wanting more. Just like in life, we may not always discover a direct answer or direction but it’s what we learned along the way that dictates our future direction and decisions. “Sick of It All” closes the door to Spill but leaves you in anticipation for another to open as Calibre is set to release another Shelf Life and unnamed LP later this year.
For any drum and bass fan, Spill is a must have in an already prestigious catalogue of a man who manages to reach the hearts of so many without even utilizing the modern web to do so. Spill is a refreshing output of using less to communicate more and manages to get better the more you listen to it. Be sure to support Calibre and pick this one up as it’s a fresh, unique, and fulfilling album that will stand the test of time and be in rotation for years to come. Also, be sure to check out an interview with the main man below where he provides some insight into the thought process behind his creative outputs.