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Pangaea In Drum Play Hessle Audio


In Drum Play may be billed as Pangaea’s debut album, but it’s not the first time we’ve had a long-form window into the Hessle Audio co-founder’s imagination. 2010’s Pangaea EP and 2012’s Release double-packs showcased a producer with a rich palette that reached far beyond the two-track 12” production line of so much dubstep at the time.

Since Release, McAuley’s embrace of straight-up techno has been plain to hear. While such influences were always prevalent in his music previously, there was a point where the spirit of loopy, tribal 90s techno a la Ben Sims and James Ruskin seemed to noticeably reanimate in his productions and DJ sets. It was a similar story with McAuley’s peers, as dubstep’s youthful pioneers matured and sought out further musical roots to intertwine with.

Of course every musical phenomenon is no more than the sum of its influences, and why shouldn’t the dubstep cognoscenti look back to classic UK techno as much as classic UK garage? However, dubstep’s streamlining into slick, modern 4/4 seemed to coincide with the wider popularity of underground dance music.

No longer the preserve of under-attended Sunday night sessions at Plastic People, this sound and the artists carrying it was now filling out spacious warehouses and festival stages. UK, and indeed European, club music has been dallying with this sway between niche innovation and swelling crowds for some time. It’s arguably tougher to take chances as an artist when your nightly audience reaches into the thousands. As a vast, commercial space famed for its uncompromising booking policy, fabric could be considered one of the exceptions to that rule, which makes its recent closure all the more galling.

McAuley’s debut album lands at this pivotal time for UK club culture, arriving ten years after he first stepped out on wax. It feels as though the varying tendrils of Pangaea’s sound from 2007 right up to now have coalesced into a many-sided, wholly contemporary piece of work. Part of the appeal of McAuley’s music has always been the flamboyance in his style, and it’s here in abundance. The RnB vocal licks on DNS call to mind earlier cuts such as Why, and More Is More To Burn succinctly captures the evolution of Pangaea with its sparkling surface elements strapped to a traditional techno structure.

Overall on In Drum Play it feels like McAuley has gained traction on his penchant for loopy, tribal techno and offset it against his more playful side. One By One dazzles with its potent brew of anthemic grime stabs, swooning LFO strings and militant dubstep soundsystem pressure. Most importantly it feels natural, all the disparate influences gently merged for a personal end result.

Part of that aforementioned big room techno proliferation may well turn back inwards now, as the UK struggles to hold onto larger spaces that can provide a haven for underground sounds. In some ways, In Drum Play feels more akin in spirit to the mythos of FWD>> and DMZ, its daring fusions of sounds more likely to delight the select crowd than satisfy the masses. The difference for the artist now is the maturity that seals those joins together, making the final body of work a cohesive one.