Gove Kidao and J. Fogel were initially brought together by a shared affinity for music that hovers on the fringes of the bass music scene, experimental sounds and ideas that live on the borderlines between genres.
Both are accomplished producers in their own right – Kidao goes by Sabre, and has been a maverick in the DnB world since 2004, whilst Fogel produces as Stray, having debuted on Critical Recordings in 2009 and pushed a forward-thinking approach to the genre ever since.
Coming together as Ivy Lab, they produce hard-hitting, bass-heavy abstractions that stretch the boundaries of mid-tempo electronica. As a duo they’ve moved away from the structures of DnB and towards the amorphous future beats movement, a loosely defined proto-genre that takes initiatives from hip-hop, trap, DnB and bass music, fusing aspects of various scenes to create weighty, bombastic music that bangs at a halftime tempo.
Since establishing 20/20 LDN in 2015, a record label and dedicated club night at Phonox, they’ve become figureheads of the scene, providing a platform for fledgling artists and a space for their music to be shared with a wider audience.
20/20 LDN Recordings are marking their tenth release with the debut album from Ivy Lab, Death Don’t Always Taste Good. It’s an audacious 12-track foray into the duo’s twisted imaginations, fusing the sonic signifiers of UK bass and DnB with the rolling tempos and cocksure attitude of hip-hop and trap. Following the record’s release on 11th May, we caught up with the pair to get an insight into their creative process and hear about the thoughts, ideas and influences behind each track.
1. Fortune Teller
As an opener the aim was that this set the haunting and unsettling tone that permeates the entire LP. The demo version was titled ‘RZA’ cause the beat has this kinda gritty wu tang vibe about it, and the vox and strings give it a B-movie horror aesthetic which is as tense as it is playful
2. Ugly Bubble
This one has a heavy dub-oriented influence and stands unique on the LP in it’s reliance on 4/4 kicks to drive the beat. The sudden switch into the melodic and lush dreamlike middle breakdown is a ‘surface-to-air’ moment before the bubble comes back and infinitely descends with a shepherd tone illusion quality to it
3. Jet Lag
Jet Lag was written at a time where we both happened to be undergoing emotional stress in our personal lives, and we’d like to imagine that there is a tangible sense of melancholy conveyed in the music
4. Astral Pirate Theme
The sirens, pops and baroque bassline melody are a nod towards Dilla, and the hallmark to its groove is how early the snare hits. There’s also a kinda prog-jazz leaning to the melodies that happen later on in the track and the whole thing has this travelling through space vibe about it, hence the title
This track is a straight-to-the-point affair carried by it’s G Funk styled worming reese bass and swagged out groove. It’s essentially a drum & bass tune at heart, which is where it took most its engineering cues from. The key to the drop is the empty space created in the sparseness of the intro; someone described this to us as being like a ‘palette cleanser’, which feels pretty apt!
6. Vanity Fair
Vibe here is all about making peeps feel on edge, and making use of as small an amount of different elements as possible. There’s a somewhat non-descript and almost alien nature to it’s main instrumentation, and the creepy, bitterly suggestive vocals felt like the perfect fit. It’s the most lowkey track on the LP but arguably one of the most essential in its cementing of the project’s aesthetic
7. A & E
Another very drum & bass oriented affair with glaring techno influences, tunes like this are probably the closest we get to a ‘roller’. Slowly evolving, repeating hypnotic riffs sit as a throwback to some of our earlier tech dnb, and the sound design intentionally maintains a sense of panic, conjuring images of an accident and emergency ward at a hospital, which is how it got its name
8. Death Don’t Always Taste Good
This one bears flickers of Company Flow/El-P, with it’s industrial & grungy core. There’s a sense of tangible urgency, and the burrowing insect percussion keeps things freakish enough to warrant the chunky neurofunk styled bassline which underpins it all
9. Snack Time
Picking up where ‘Death Don’t Always Taste Good’ leaves off through it’s overarching industrial and machine like quality, the juxtaposition in mood between this track’s two halves acts as a fitting microcosm of the project as a whole – it carries a particularly jarring and challenging nature, born out of the playground taunt melodies and awkward groove, and the payoff once again is in the lush, cradling sound design and chords which float in and out over its duration
The factory / machine aesthetic comes to a head here, with the robotic rendition of Monty Python’s Argument Room sketch playing centre stage. In contrast to much of the rest of the LP, the beats here carry a more classic boom-bap groove, which is offset by the choice of offkilter & industrial drumkit
Here, a film-noir dark circus evil clown aesthetic converges with dub-influences and tips its cap towards jump up drum & bass. It carries a very tongue-in-cheek sensibility over from it’s predecessor ‘Calculate’ and sits as one of the album’s most playful and dancefloor centric jawns
This was built a lot like one of our old liquid dnb rollers but in halftime, with an emphasis on filter work which creates the moments of clarity. There are gospel themes to the music which hopefully conjures a kind of celebratory headspace to leave the listener in as the album draws to its conclusion
“Death Don’t Always Taste Good” is out now on 20/20 Recordings.
Buy it here.