2011’s ‘Mountains’ EP for 2nd Drop blows most producers working in the ‘chilled’ dubstep milieu clean out of the water. It coolly walks a tightrope between sampleadelic diversity and luxuriant uniformity, all rich, muted blues, greys and greens. Most strikingly, Manuel isn’t afraid of navigating through a range of tempos and soundworlds, refracting each in turn through his distinctive lens. There’s hip-hop (the opening of ‘Undercoat’), techno – generally of the dub-drenched variety (‘Mountains Part 1′) – and flirtations with two-step garage (‘Turiya’). Disparate sections are dovetailed together expertly. It’s a record perfectly suited to the home-headphones ritual, where listening becomes a captivating wander through landscapes suffused with reverb, populated by half-heard monologues and verdant oases of jazz miscellany. It’s a connoisseur’s dreamboat, as highlighted by T++ naming the EP his favourite of 2011.
Manuel’s easy eclecticism probably stems from his DJing. He was a DJ long before he made a name as a producer, and as part of the Yardcore crew he holds down a regular show on Sub.fm, where his sets can encompass anything from the deepest of dub techno to the giddy rush of ghettotech and breakcore. In fact, the near-subterranean tone of his productions is a pleasantly surprising contrast to the high-energy approach he often takes when DJing. A series of Yardcore-promoted nights a few years back tended to focus on the more high-octane side of things, with breakbeat science a firm fixture. It’s rare for a producer to successfully bridge the divide between the critically ghettoised high-energy rave underground and more ‘tasteful’ environs – but with another single and an album for 2nd Drop on their way this year, it’s clearly a formula that’s worked for DjRUM.