The great thing about DLR’s Sofa Sound imprint and its A&R is that, just like DLR himself, there’s always a sense of fun and funk built into every track. From the release art to the sound design to even the deepest, heaviest tracks still being a bit of a bop, there’s a playfulness there that gives Sofa its mass appeal while still being technically spot-on. With their new collab EP Fresh Cutz due out tomorrow, January 25, Iris and Sweetpea have more than embraced that fun side to beatmaking with a collection of fast, funky rollers.
Most US heads will know Iris from her work with Quadrant. Together they’ve been one of the few US acts to trapse the hazardous atlantic connection and earn top billing with UK labels, releasing on the likes of Delta9, C4C, CIA Dispatch, Shogun and many more over their long tenure in the scene. Iris has also done her fair share of solo work but seems to be really going for it in the last couple years, with one of the first branch-out tracks, appropriately enough, being with Sweetpea on DLR’s Sofa King Sick Chapter 3 compilation.
Sweetpea is another D&B lifer who’s been making tracks since 2016 and has quickly become a mainstay of Sofa Sound and Bcee’s Spearhead Records while also releasing tracks on Dispatch, Hospital and Addictive Behaviour. She’s also part of the powerful London women’s collective, EQ50, who work to give equal opportunity to all artists in drum & bass. Known to neuro with the grimiest of them but also able to make a killer vocal track, if you’re a stateside head who hasn’t heard Sweetpea’s discography yet, it’s time to get to Googling.
Iris, Sweetpea and DLR have chosen a cool format for Fresh Cutz: there are two true collab track where both the artists worked on them and two where it’s just Iris or Sweetpea. This is fun for the tech heads because audiences can really hear each artist’s individual style right alongside their fused work. It makes for an interesting study in how collabs are made. The collab tracks are the title track, a jumpy throwback of a deep roller that’s as fast as is it minimal on sound design and last week’s teaser track, “DFS.” “DFS” has a similar snare-focused, fast-moving beat structure but lands more on the dark than the deep side, especially when the tempo changes to a fast version of dubstep at the break.
EP opener “Not Even a Big Up” is Iris’s track. Continuing the rolling drum motif, this track still has the throwback cachet both she and Sweetpea love, but Iris have her track an extra, oh-so-subtle injection of rave in the sound design. It’s just a hint of musicality and a few mid-90s samples, but it makes a difference and carves out Iris’s own style while staying true to the theme of the EP.
Similarly, Sweetpea’s “Duck Funk,” our YEDM premiere today, is quick and tom-forward in its rolling drums a’la the rest of the EP but it’s got loads of spooky, almost ominous sound design. A canned, low-reg synth does a lot of the work in this track: it carries the music while connecting to the drums, and then drops back in the break to the background, where it becomes even more canned and echoey.
This break bit may technically be the most interesting part of the track because that synth never leaves and is never really in the background. The form it takes in the afore-mentioned break makes it sound like it’s being played at a club behind closed doors. It grows fainter, but you never stop paying attention to it. It comes back in via a swooping sinewave that brings the listener into the rave with it. The magic of rave is encapsulated in that moment; we’ve all felt it, but it’s impossible to describe. Luckily, Sweetpea caught it in a mixdown for us.
It’s clear that Sweetpea and Iris have a shared vision for their work, and in Fresh Cutz it intersects at rolling drums, minimal sound design, deep synths and, of course, rave. Bring in the fun and funky side with Sofa Sound, and this EP is as truly fresh as it is timeless.
Fresh Cutz drops tomorrow, January 25 on Sofa Sound. Click here to pre-order or pre-save.