Dark, heavy, and groovy, are three words that come to mind when Xtrah puts out another collection of tracks, and his Lost Time EP on Symmetry is more than pleasing. Without going too far out of what’s more or less expected from Xtrah; the EP has great variety. Featuring vocal talent from Codebreaker and MC DRS, the Lost Time EP also features a collaboration with the almighty Break on “Always New,” followed by the chugging/reload-demanding Break remix of “Cyrax” to tie it all together.
The EP kicks off with “Lost Time,” a tech-infused treat that wastes no time in getting to the infectious drum beat and synth pads that immediately set the ominous mood. Codebreaker’s vocal cues come in tastefully off-beat and shortly after the drums quiet down, a skeleton of its former self stays tame for the build-up to a big, rolling, and reese-heavy drop. Bass-stabs and bongos fill the soundscape as Codebreaker’s vocals are given the Xtrah treatment; panning back and forth as well as being tastefully sampled and warped. Every listen to “Lost Time” offers a new element to discover. The bassline is genius, the vocal treatment is perfectly executed, and Xtrah’s always clever drum work leaves room for your mind to slip away while garnering a groove that demands to be stepped too.
If you’re familiar with Break, Xtrah, and Symmetry, then you’ll have known about the “Something New” remix Xtrah did for Break on The Other Side LP last year. Keeping the ‘newness’ theme alive, “Always New” ft Break and DRS is something of a spiritual successor to last year’s remix. Xtrah & Break are always forward thinking in regards to what can be defined as drum and bass, and constantly leave me surprised and wanting more.
With that said, a West-Coast and LA-style vibe is definitely NOT what I had in mind when I first listened to “Always New.” Think Bassnectar or Vibesquad. Buzzing, weighty 808 bass, and South-Asian drum samples combine in a chill-out meets glitch-hop kind of vibe, yet somehow remains undeniably Xtrah and Break.
With DRS taking the lead on vocals, his lyrics and style are unmatched, and perfectly complement the West-Coast vibe of “Always New.” While most producers are giving a shot at trap these days, these two gave glitch-hop a shot. “Always New” is funky, full of breaks, and doesn’t compromise the sounds they’ve been known for. Xtrah & Break uniquely made a track that West Coast low-riders can vibe to just as much as the headz would demand for a reload in Room 3 at Fabric; something that’s not easily accomplished.
If you’re more into straight-forward drum and bass and are worried that the rest of the Lost Time EP will be a sleeper, then “Grooveshadow” is fit for you. Fast and punchy; the drums start with Xtrah’s perfect pacing and pick-up momentum with emerging hats and cymbals only to stop momentarily for a bass burp – a taste of what’s to come.
The drop of “Grooveshadow” gets the feet and head moving, while the hats stay cleverly slow-paced. Just as you get comfortable…silence sweeps the sounds away, only to be swiftly interrupted by a ripping bassline that switches up the pace entirely. Suddenly your movements have increased in pace as Xtrah uniquely brings in speedier hi-hats and a rolling reese bassline. “Grooveshadow” then takes on a whole new form with bongo fills, flanged out snare-rolls, and a massive switch-up that demands a reload every time! With such intricate drum work the bassline must maintain momentum, and Xtrah does exactly that. “Grooveshadow” is a big roller that I cannot get enough of!
This brings us back to Break. The man was silent for a good portion of the year & until recently, his label Symmetry was as well. Then all of a sudden the addictive Break tracks trickle in on various labels throughout the summer and when you consider the calibre of those productions, his hiatus was time not wasted.
Hot on the heels of the massive “Music Is Better” (easily a contender for track of the year), we get a remix from the label boss himself of “Cyrax” by Xtrah. The original is a great moody track that zips and rolls around; full of Xtrah’s signature beats and genius switch-ups. Break’s hiatus is evident in the remix as he pushes the bass to its limits and gives the well-aged track a boost of energy in the drum region, almost doubling the pace of the original all around.
Intensity and funk is all Break knows though, and the groove-wizard effectively utilizes a fuzzy/pulsing bassline, constantly switching hats and rides, as well as a ton of zips and zurrps to keep the intensity of “Cyrax” going. Break’s remix for “Cyrax” is relentless, but never outshines the original.
Overall, I’ve been having a great time listening to the Lost Time EP . There is no shortage of great drum work and switch ups, and the variety never compromises Xtrah’s sound or Symmetry’s vibe. The Lost Time EP is an instant classic that I’ll be keeping on my playlist for some time and be sure to keep an eye on the Symmetry crew as they have much more in the pipeline!
Words By: Norwegian (Kyle Hall)