Mike at Binary Star records keeps me up to date with what’s happening in the world of the breakbeat, although to be honest there has been very little to get me going this year in what seems to be a case of drum’n’bass proving the law of diminishing returns. With junglelite filling the soundtrack to every kind of tv advert these days, it’s a bit of a chore to go find things that still bite and excite. However, as stated in the ‘97 post-mortem, the best sounds are being produced by Optical and Matrix, although it’s Optical who has had by far the most releases and exposure in 98 so far. By now you should all know that Optical has a dark and edgy trademark sound, and, like all the best in Pop for decades, it’s the close adherence to formula that makes his records so reliably great. Hard edged beats shot through with industrial strength drips of acid, eating through you like the blood of the Alien through Nostromo’s bulkheads. It’s all space too, which is important, given junglelite’s preoccupation with stuffing every moment with a snare drum rush and jazz inflection. Actual records? Well go choose from the following: on 31 Records there’s ‘Bounce’, which bounces like something dropped from a Lancaster bomber, and ‘The End part 1’. ‘The End part 2’ crops up on the next 31 release, credited to Fortran, which I seem to remember hearing was Optical and Ed Rush in collaboration. It’s doubled with ‘Search’, which is fitting, since there’s a feeling that Optical and Rush are two of only a few artists in this area still bothering to search out new possibilities. Both of those were out at the start of the year, or March at the latest, but what the hell, they still sound amazing. Also out by Optical and Ed Rush was the ‘Medicine’/’Punchbag’ 12 on Virus. There’s been more too, although I can only say that I have two totally unmarked promos that Mike said were Optical singles. They both sound typically great. On the Matrix front I’ve heard next to nothing in ’98 which is a great shame. Only the already mentioned in ’97 release of the ‘Spring Box’ remix on Genetic Stress, which is worthy however of another mention because it is simply such a classic tune, both in the vocal version and dub. If you didn’t get it before, get it now.

More drum’n’bass? Well not very much I’m afraid. Many of the old names of interest have totally failed to provide us with anything in ’98. Rupert Parkes has been quiet, although the reappearance of the new Photek Producations label, with the old familiar logo, was very welcome. ‘Lower Depths’ / ‘Sub Zero’ by Digital kicked off the label in great style, and if there have been more releases then I’d love to know about them. Tom Jenkinson has failed to deliver much of worth since the ‘Hard Normal Daddy’ record of, oh, ages ago, instead delivering a couple of compilations of old and unreleased material. The Warp label collection of the Spymania 12s is bound to be worth getting however, if only to hear what was so damned exciting about the records in the first place. Maybe they lose some of the thrill in the translation through time, but whatever, it’s exhilarating and mad stuff. Similarly mad is the release of his even older demo material by Rephlex, under the name of Chaos A.D. No dates appear anywhere except on the pile of tapes that make up the cover shots, and they suggest 1993 as some year zero for the man Jenkinson. It’s a curious collection, with the fairly rough home production giving the sound an edge missing on some of his more polished later releases, although whether that’s to your tastes is another matter. Whatever your opinion, there’s no denying the enthusiasm and energy burbling through these tracks, and if it has a date stamp acid sound, then so be it. Punk Rock, no less.