“I’ve always felt that d&b is about the breaks, the bass, or both, which is why I’ve tried to experiment more with melodies,” says Tony Barnett, better known as Necrotype. Since 2014, this drum & bass producer has released a parade of jungle EPs on labels like Repertoire, 7th Storey Projects and Justice’s Modern Urban Jazz, mixing breakbeat acumen with spine-tingling synth melodies.
While rhythmically hefty, his 2018 track ‘Yosei’ on Myor’s Diamond Life was most notable for its sparkling lead line, sounding more Ryuichi Sakamoto than Source Direct. On his 2019 cassette release, ‘Necrotape’, touches of ambient jungle, techno and IDM were evident across its eight tracks, suggesting an eclectic musical taste.
“Stuff like Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin, Omni Trio and Cocteau Twins I’ve been a fan of for many years,” he says. “I’m leaning into that a lot more at the moment. Another influence is Justice, who is a really good mate of mine now. I’ve worked with him quite a bit. He’s always been doing stuff that is different. When I think back to his track ‘Aquisse’, it was so unlike anything else out there.”
Necrotype’s originality is evident most of all on his debut album ‘Surrowey’, out now on Rawtrachs’ Future Past Zine label. A dreamlike dive into spidery guitar textures, shoegaze harmonies and tumbling rhythms, melodically, it feels like Cocteau Twins or Bark Psychosis, but the beats remain largely d&b. On ‘Fualst’, the bass buzzes with the menace of an ’80s horror flick score, adding to the eldritch electronic notes, before the breaks descend like a cloak of shadow.
On ‘Surrowey’ itself, an acidic bassline darts through diaphanous layers of synth, while the drums cascade and ricochet. Though he uses plenty of sampled breaks throughout, the beats are in different time signatures, such as 3/4 and 5/4, giving the rhythms a novel, surprising impact. In a dance music genre that sticks rigidly to 4/4 time, it feels unorthodox and revolutionary. “It’s a bit more of a challenge, and I’m trying to focus more on the overall groove and feeling of the tunes,” Necrotype says. “If people would start experimenting with different time signatures a bit more, it could link onto this kind of music.”
Growing up on the coast in Worthing, West Sussex, Necrotype got into dance music at the age of 10. His sister used to go to nearby legendary rave venue Sterns, and would bring home cassette recordings of the nights.“That’s how I ended up hearing that kind of music,” he says. “It was like a whole other world to me, I got such a buzz from it. And even at that sort of age, I was thinking, ‘I cannot wait to start going to these things’, and I did as soon as I turned 18.”
He dabbled with DJing in Brighton, but says “I’m quite introverted, quite a shy sort of person, so the idea of performing in front of a bunch of people isn’t for me”. Instead, he turned to production to contribute to the scene he loved, and an initial release on a label run by friends, Jungle Rollerz, was the springboard for his production career. Collaborating with artists like Tim Reaper, releasing on Repertoire and working with Coco Bryce, he was one of the artists associated with jungle’s new generation in the late 2010s, but nowadays, he’s less interested in Amen breaks than he is in atmospheric, emotive sounds. “A lot of what I make comes from personal life stuff. I thought it was easier to put how I was feeling into that kind of style,” he says.
Highly prolific, Necrotype can finish a track in a matter of hours, and treats the process almost like a diary entry. “I just do it whenever I have the compulsion to do it. If I’m feeling something and I want to get it down, it’s a lot like how someone might journal.” The unique sound Necrotype has created on ‘Surrowey’ is going to inform his future releases. He says he’s got 32 tracks ready to go, with various possible EPs in the works. “It’s certainly the way I’m going to continue and I’m just really enjoying what I’m doing at the moment,” he concludes. “I feel like I’m on a bit of a roll, so I’m just gonna keep going.”