Reviewed: Critical Music XX Printworks
When it was announced that Critical Music were going to be taking over Printworks for their 20th anniversary, I couldn’t quite believe it. Founded by Kasra in 2002, Critical have grown from strength to strength cementing their place as one of the most highly-regarded labels in Drum & Bass. I couldn’t think of a venue more suited to celebrating this monumental achievement for Kasra and the label. We’re talking dark, stripped back Drum & Bass, chunky breaks and growling basslines in London’s darkest, industrial setting. It couldn’t be more perfect and that’s before we’ve even discussed the outrageous lineup that they were bringing to the table. Known for bringing through an abundance of fresh talent and Drum & Bass veterans, it was clear that Critical were taking no prisoners for their 20th anniversary. Packing out the Press Halls with the likes of Breakage, Particle, Bladerunner, Serum, Kasra, Mefjus, Enei, Skeptical and the Ink Wells with a whole host of up and comers including; En:vy, Waeys, Klinical, Buunshin and many more.
I arrived at the mighty Printworks for 2pm and headed straight for the Press Halls to find Bladerunner in control. The Press Halls was the darkest I had seen it, minimal lighting, perfect for a Critical takeover and Bladerunner was getting straight into business. Playing a serious selection of hard-hitting rollers filled with ruthless growls and thumping 808s, Bladerunner was bringing the energy early on in the day with tracks such as his own ‘Bladerunner – Lick Shot’.
Up next in the Press Halls was someone who’s hot on everyone’s tongues, Particle. He’d been teasing a bunch of unreleased music on Instagram during the week and boy did he deliver on the day. With potentially one of the standout moments of the event, Particle dropped a seriously hefty double drop of ‘Shy FX – Roll The Dice (Ft. Stamina & Lily Allen)’ and his newly released ‘Particle – That Hz’. A double that came out of nowhere and absolutely blew the roof off of Printworks. The gnarly synth and stripped back drums of ‘That Hz’ paired with the well-known vocal from ‘Roll The Dice’…It really was pretty special.
After a small sit-down and some smoking area shenanigans, we got straight back into the action with Skeptical back to back with Breakage, hosted by SP:MC. Taking it up a notch, we were graced with two veterans of the scene. Serving up a broad selection of tasty minimal, liquid and jungle breaks, the duo in control were giving everyone a lesson in Drum & Bass. Dropping tracks such as Skeptical’s recent remix, ‘Noisia – Diplodocus (Skeptical Remix)’ and one that everyone was singing along to, ’Alix Perez, DLR, SP:MC – Keep Up’.
Staying on the same vibe, Halogenix was next on the decks. A man who’s been making waves for as long as I can remember and someone who was at the very top of my list for sets to see on the day. You can always expect liquid vibes when Halogenix is in control and that’s exactly what we got during his set, switching it up every now and then with some outrageously big hitters. Playing a bunch of his own material such as his recent remix of Unglued’s ‘Way Back When’ and his edit of ‘GIVEON – Favourite Mistake’, the vibes were unmatched. Now it wouldn’t be a Critical anniversary without Halogenix giving his Dragonforce EP an honoured spin. The place went nuts when he dropped ‘Halogenix – Independent’, a track which still gets rinsed to this date.
It’s pretty obvious that Printworks is no sprint and with that said after another short sit down, we had found ourselves at what I’d call the main event. The head honcho, Kasra had stepped up to deliver what I can imagine was the most emotional set of his career. The Press Halls were reduced to complete darkness apart from the light of everyone’s mobile phones. The buildup was dark and atmospheric and had everyone eager for the drop. Kasra dropped straight into a ridiculously steppy track which was met with a huge roar from the crowd. The pace, the vibe it was everything that screamed Critical and who better to deliver it than Kasra. Dropping a whole load of unheard tracks from their upcoming anniversary album such as ‘En:vy – Over You’ and ‘Enei – Omega (Ft. Jakes)’, it was absolutely phenomenal. Kasra was taking us on a journey, paying respect to early Critical releases and shining a light on the exciting new music to come.
Unfortunately for us, the next set of the night was the final one but we were in the safe hands of Enei. Another heavyweight who’s been at the top of his game for years now, it’s almost as if with every release he’s just getting better and better, darker and darker and has gifted us with some of the biggest tracks in recent years. Enei had turned up in true Critical style, showcasing a whole host of tracks filled with aggressive synths and chunky percussive drums. Track after track, screwface after screwface, Enei was dropping some absolute stinkers such as ‘Enei – The Greatest Trick’ and one of his recent collaborations with Kasra ‘Take A Dive (Ft. T-Man), the set was filled with energy and was the perfect set for us to close up the night.
11 hours straight of dark Drum & Bass in honour of Critical Music? Yep, we weren’t dreaming it actually happened and it was outrageous. Hats off to all the Critical Music crew, Kasra for an insane achievement and all the DJs involved on the day. It really was one for the memory books.
Did you miss out on this monumental event? Fear not, Critical will be carrying on the celebrations and taking over Phonox every Friday in May! More info and tickets here