Compilation of the Month: Invicta Audio ‘1 Year Of Invicta’
Breakthrough UK label Invicta Audio celebrates its first birthday with a compilation of next-gen d&b fusions
Nominated for Best Breakthrough Label of 2020 at DJ Mag’s Best Of British awards, and scooping plaudits from UKF and DNB Arena, Invicta Audio is already making a big name for itself in the drum & bass world. Based in Bristol and started by Anton Bailey, aka Lakota, and Blue Mountain resident Viatic, it was originally destined to be an events brand — but when Covid-19 hit, Bailey was forced to have a rethink.
Becoming a label instead, the first release, ‘The Launch’, was a 19-track compilation released for free through SoundCloud. Featuring many rising Bristol drum & bass producers, it quickly earned Invicta Audio an army of fans, and the imprint has gone from strength to strength since — even with no clubs to hear the music in. One year and 13 releases later arrives this monster 13-track compilation, showcasing the streamlined style the label has become known for. Distilling aspects of liquid, ragga jungle, R&B, jump-up and techy production into something stripped- back and modern sounding, it’s no wonder Invicta has resonated with so many people.
Bristol artist H8TO’s ‘This Place’ has a crisp, stepping beat, a slick male vocal, and an incredibly catchy lead synth that you won’t be able to get out of your head. It’s accessible, but has a cool minimalism that makes it anything but pop. B-PLEXX offers ‘Too High’, where a languid R&B lyric coasts over a lethal bass part; Refracta’s ‘Touch’ is joyous liquid funk, with snippets of soul vocals, jazzy chords and an enormous electroid bass that makes you yearn for summer (and the end of lockdown); and Bookey’s ‘Life’ harks back to the dancehall and soundsystem roots of jungle, with its toasted vocal, guitar licks, horn blasts and dubby b-line. Its modernist touch is reminiscent of Congo Natty’s later material.
Even better is Laney’s ‘Dance Girl VIP’, its ragga lyrics floating in a sea of reverb, the arrangement stripped right back to bass, crispy drums and soundsystem dub FX. São Paulo duo Jam Thieves, who’ve released on Playaz, V and Mac 2, contribute the menacing Reese, soul vox and techy production details of ‘Black Light’, and 20-year-old Invicta resident Gonda hands the stems for ‘Hold Up’ to another Bristolian, Rise, for a sparse roller with snippets of rap bars and bass you suspect would buckle most speaker stacks. Harley D’s ‘Forever’ cranks out freaky neurofunk low-end, but adds a soulful lyric to break up the dirt, while the drums create an almost waltz time rhythm that harks back to Shimon & Andy C’s ‘Body Rock’.
Another São Paulo producer, Phizical offers ‘Feeling’, a clipped piece that lightens the oppressiveness of the low-end with its snippet of a classic neo soul track. The compilation ends with Matt Neux’s ‘Love U Seek’, an Amen break beast that samples the unmistakable horn part that formed Shapeshifters’ soulful house tune ‘Lola’s Theme’, and lands in similar territory to High Contrast or J Majik’s disco- infused ‘Love Is Not A Game’.
Drum & bass consistently replenishes its fan-base, bringing in younger fans and fresh producers. Invicta Audio feels like it’s very much part of a new wave, adding to and strengthening a genre that’s on an upward trajectory at the moment. Many of the producers on this compilation are in their early twenties – just starting out – but have already pinpointed a production style that feels like it could only be a product of now, rather than a replication of drum & bass’ former glories. If this is how good Invicta Audio is now without any clubs open, imagine how it’s going to fly when those tunes start being played on club rigs?
‘1 Year Of Invicta’ will be released on 28th May. You can pre-order it here.