Push play and brace yourself.
Aphrodite’s been doing the drum & bass/jungle thing for a long time now, but there’s no sign of softening or letting up in his latest mix CD with the couldn’t-be-more-appropriate title of Overdrive. With BPMs that always exceed 140, Aphrodite is intent on tiring your sorry ass out as quickly as possible. Overdrive is, at heart, a test of pure stamina, but if you’re up to the challenge of dancing (or even listening) to the entire album, you will be rewarded.
Of course, a single listen might not do it for you — music of this type has a tendency to blur together when a listener hears it for the first time. Every beat is basically the same, a really fast variation on boom bop diggadiggaboom bop, but it’s what’s going on around the beats that sets the various tracks on an album of this nature apart. Since the point is to keep the flow going as the disc progresses, it could even be argued that the beat similarities are to be expected. Past the beats, though, a quick listen blurs together the other elements as well, as all manner of “real” and sampled vocal work, thick bass lines, distorted noises, and synth hits are crushed together into a free-flowing sort of drum & bass soup. It’s a bit intimidating, really.
The first tracks to really identify themselves as entities separate from the rest on this album are the ones that feature easy-to-locate vocal lines. “Sometimes”, a track by Aphrodite himself, features a fantastic vocal from UK soul diva Beverley Knight. While the instrumental backing adheres fairly closely to the template of the rest of the album, Knight’s presence and strength are the defining features of the track. Rather than give the typical wispy female vocal that tends to get slapped on top of this type of music, we’ve got a serious soul vocal complete with multi-tracked harmonies that just happens to have a neck breaker of a beat behind it. Slow that beat down to hip-hop speed, and it’s a hit — as it is, “Sometimes” should fill every dancefloor it gets played on. The legendary Afrika Bambaataa makes an appearance as well, with a remix (by Aphrodite himself, naturally) of his remake of Manu Dibango’s classic “Soul Makossa”. Again, the speed remains the same, but Bambaataa’s chanting and the fantastic integration of the horn line into the beat make it stand out from the pack.
On a purely instrumental level, album closer “Holler”, from NG3 (that’s Nasty Girls 3, for the curious), is a great way to go out, featuring a nice three-chord piano line and noises that aren’t really as aggressive or obnoxious, depending on your point of view, as on the rest of the album. Unfortunately, the sex moans at the end that seem a prerequisite for a mix like this have to make an appearance, and the track loses its impact a bit, turning into more of a really fast pole-dancing anthem — which is fine, if you’re into that sort of thing. Special K’s “Growler” features the best bassline of the bunch, and drives it into your skull like a jackhammer for two minutes. If you need a different beat for ten seconds, The Drunken Masters give you a touch of reggae on the relatively interesting “Roots and Culture” before integrating those reggae sounds into the more typical jungle beats of the rest of the album.
Really, the more you listen, the more you can grab onto — the replayability of Overdrive is likely its greatest strength. Past that, Overdrive is absolutely one of the most energetic records to have been released all year, and if what you need is pure energy coming at you from all directions at breakneck speeds, Aphrodite has assembled just the thing.