Pendulum are off the radar. For the unenlightened, this is because its two production powerhouses – Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen – have derailed the electronica train into hiatus while its front two carriages plough off the UK chart and straight through Skrillex’s fanbase. This runaway locomotive is referred to as Knife Party and Rage Valley is their second release. KP have stressed they have nothing to do with their past, a fair statement considering guitars and “Swire vocals” are entirely absent – not so fair, perhaps, when compared to Pendulum’s earlier days, where nasty, nasty bass ruled the soundscape – remember ‘Masochist’ or ‘Slam’?
Rob and Gareth jump on deadmau5’s “12/8 electro house stomper” wagon for the opener, also titled ‘Rage Valley’, the only 128BPM romp this time around. Menacing 4/4 rhythms kick off shortly before you are forcefully bustled into the electro gauntlet, featuring the stabs and slides now synonymous with the extreme side of house which Skrillex and company have championed as of late. This stage of the track perhaps sounds a tad spacious for such an anticipated opening drop – a task which ‘Internet Friends’ undertook considerably well on their first EP (evidence of which being its deservedly high play count in The Cube and Sobar) – though these few bars still deliver with some fresh electro overtones along with the screeching. Where the track really shines is the absolutely beautiful synth progression that follows, bringing with it a simple but brilliant bassline, both of which carry through into the breakdown. My money is on this being the part you’ll hum incessently should this track catch your ears.
Continuing on his quest to educate the planet about rainforest wildlife, Rob next presents us with fan-favourite brostep stonker, ‘Centipede’. The track draws concept and key from Pendulum’s ‘Masochist’,beginning with a documentary voice-over asserting that centipedes rip tarantulas to shreds – more Pendulum references anyone? Shortly after this jolly banter, the hard stuff kicks in, which although very well-engineered from the off, may leave “bros” craving more of the groaning ‘Monsters and Sprites’ modulated bass that occasionally rears its filthy face amongst the sprawling electro. The majority of the track is, next to most American brostep, decidedly light – perhaps suited to the subject matter – yet sub bass is thankfully found throughout. So not a bad piece by any means; thanks to the heaviness that’s here, it’ll probably be the standout track on the release for most bass lovers.
‘Bonfire’ is next in line. KP ramp up the tempo here and throw their back catalogue into a liquidiser. You’re looking at ‘Tarantula’, ‘Internet Friends’ and ‘Fire Hive’ smashed together here, and somehow, it does blend, wielding an insane drumstep barrage with ragga and gabber vibes first tearing up the intro then carrying through the drop, which itself brings our familiar brostep formant-filtered filth into the mix. ‘Bonfire’ might be overlooked, but boasts some of the heaviest tones on the release – those craving Rob and Gareth’s drum’n’bass legacy won’t forget this one in a rush.
Rounding off, we’ve got ‘Sleaze’, a collaboration with Radio 1 bassmeister MistaJam. The duo have messed around with slower beats in past live shows, but the only thing they’ve released akin to this tune’s sub-critical speed has been their mesmerising electro-hybrid remix of Porter Robinson’s ‘Unison’. Sleaze is chilled in comparison, even if the lead-in is effectively Jaws. Mista’s appearance isn’t obvious at first, with the pre-drop vocal coming across robotic, but when his chanting “Until they kick us out / People move your feet” finally gets up on the moombahton vibes, this could almost be a refined and wound-down take on Missy Elliott’s ‘Lose Control’. The vocal fits perfectly, giving the track a controlled adrenaline injection. You’ll start this track grinding but finish jumping.
For some it may take a couple of listens to really take this in, but Knife Party really haven’t put a foot wrong. This is a very strong second release; fans will be raving, and though this may be a slightly acquired taste for newcomers, primarily listening to their first (and free) EP, 100% No Modern Talking, will at least impart some idea of where Rage Valley will take them. If nothing else, the record shows killer potential.