UK-based drum and bass label Critical Music has been at the vanguard of experimentalism in the genre over the past five years. On one end of the spectrum, acts like Ivy Lab, Sam Binga, Foreign Concept and label head Kasra have brought in elements ranging from hip-hop and dancehall to ambient and downtempo into their releases. Over on the heavier side of things, Enei, Mefjus, and precocious Mancunian talent Emperor have been leading the charge for neurofunk—a newfangled take on peak-time banger drum and bass that blitzes at breakneck pace, often rushing forward at around 170bpm, with the roaring bassline chuggery of dubstep, the cold tones of techno, lightning production techniques, and sharp sound design.
Emperor, born Conor Corrigan, has been Critical Music's secret weapon for some time now. His first release with the label came in 2012, shortly after his 18th birthday, but he's been allowed time and space to develop both his sound and the mental fortitude it requires to last a lifetime blasting the aneurysm-inducing sonics associated with the neurofunk style. Last year, Critical let Emperor loose and he dropped the jaw-dropping Into Black EP, followed it up with an unrestrained multi-genre EP on UK label inspected, and now, for his coup de grace, comes his debut LP, Dispositions, released this Monday.
Dispositions is a 16-track torrent of frenetic energy, warped basses and scythes of fucked up synthetic sounds that officially announce what many already knew: Alongside genre deities Noisia and current scene leader Mefjus, Emperor is at the top of the neuro pile. Check out exclusive selects from the LP and some words with Emperor himself below.
This album has been a long time coming. What's the wait been like?
Definitely! I'd say it's been a rollercoaster of emotions. Some of the tracks have been in the works for years now, so it feels like I've reached my goal by finally releasing them. At the same time it's been exhausting; writing an album can be arduous at times, but seeing the end result after everything has come together, it feels amazing. I tried not to think about how important the release was, as I find my standards can hinder my work. If I'm not just enjoying myself, in a calm mood with no pressure I don't write the music I want to write. I tried to steer clear of that mindset and just let the music come a bit more naturally.
Neurofunk can have a tendency to blur into an overwhelming clusterfuck at times. How do you remedy that in your own work?
I agree, and I think it's becoming more and more apparent, which is a shame. I've been conscious of not wanting to sound one dimensional throughout my career. I just wanted to write music that I liked, but not go by the typical conventions of neurofunk. I wanted to feel as much emotional attachment as possible to each track, so hopefully that gives each track some distinction. Obviously there's still music on the album that's written with a dancefloor in mind as you are confined to certain constraints, but they were usually inspired by music outside of drum and bass.
What personal relationships at Critical have been most influential upon your mindset?
Everyone on the label is like family to me. I've come to know them all as my friends over the years, and having a label where I feel comfortable being myself is something I'll cherish for a long time. Never once has anyone tried to tell me what to do or how my music should sound, and I respect them a lot for that. In particular I'd have to say working with Martin (Mefjus) has changed the way I view a lot about production, and I have so much more respect for everything related to it because of him.
What's a typical night out for you like in Manchester?
I don't actually leave the house, ever. When I'm out of food to cook I usually just buy takeaways, till finally mustering the courage to walk 10 minutes down the street to the shop, where I buy a week's worth of shopping and recluse back home, until I'm finally forced to repeat the process. True story.
Book your fantasy Drum and Bass stage at a festival: 5 acts, unlimited budget, and the power to bring acts back from the dead. Who's playing?
Konflict, Noisia, Bad Company, Phace and a good ol' vintage Pendulum set.
Finish the sentence: "One thing drum and bass could do without is..."
[Pirating forum] Funkysouls. I don't really need to say much else about that one.