The once cutting-edge sounds of drum ‘n’ bass are beginning to become overshadowed by that genre’s offspring, dubstep, yet a few innovators continue to push the sound into new directions. Ror-Shak (a play on those psychological Rorschach illustrations) is a drum ‘n’ bass project created by DB (of the renowned New York record shop Breakbeat Science) and Stakka (of deejay/production duo Stakka and Skynet). Pulling from influences such as Zero 7, Royksopp and even Massive Attack, DB and Stakka have infused Ror-Shak with a distinct edge that is not otherwise seen in drum ‘n’ bass. Eclectic vocal performances, chilled out beats and dramatic orchestral backdrops make their debut, Deep, an album with exceptional crossover potential that truly elevates drum ‘n’ bass out of its current doldrums.
The interesting thing about Deep is that it plays like an electronica or down-tempo album with strong elements of drum ‘n’ bass throughout. There is no denying the double-time rhythms on tracks like “Fate Or Faith,” the soulful “Be There,” and the orgasmic “Lisa’s Song,” featuring Lisa Shaw. The album’s strongest cut, “Rescue Me,” featuring the fierce vocals of Wendy Starland, is an underground anthem in waiting, recalling the days of massive Roni Size tunes. A simmering breakbeat intro builds to a pounding bass assault, yet the track is grounded by Starland’s gritty voice.
But despite the obvious drum ‘n’ bass pedigree, Ror-Shak is determined to stretch beyond those confines and does so with relative ease. DB and Stakka float between vocal tracks featuring the likes of David Lynch-muse Julee Cruise (“Golden Cage”), Chantal Claret (“A Forest”) and Pedro Yanowitz, and instrumental tracks that aim to expand the consciousness (“Heist”). Tracks like “Love & Pride” and “Window Pain” may not appeal to fans of jungle, but they will likely delight those seeking a more laid-back experience.
Deep represents the tastes of drum ‘n’ bass lovers but also displays the more subtle charms of a genre associated with heavy bass drops and aggression. Well more than a decade into the creation of drum ‘n’ bass, the members of Ror-Shak are looking to diversify the music they love, and at that they have succeeded.