Welsh drum’n’bass prodigy Lincoln Barrett, aka High Contrast, has a reputation in drum’n’bass like no other. He regularly mixes at the famed Fabric nightclub in London, he is frequently tapped to remix huge artists like Adele, and he consistently breaks in to the UK singles charts–a feat not easily accomplished by a d’n’b producer. The Cardiff native has re-emerged this year to deliver his highly anticipated new LP, The Agony & The Ecstasy. Not since 2008’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance has Mr. Contrast delivered a full length album to the drum’n’bass massive, but the wait was entirely worth it. The album, out on Hospital Records, is a slightly more refined sound for the d’n’b dynamo, eschewing the synthetics in favor of a more symphonic vibe. Noticeably absent from the LP are the typical disco-soul vocals that have become consummately representative of High Contrast’s funky sound. Instead, HC has abandoned the funky vocals for a vocal sound that would typically be found in a pop ballad–a move that suits the album’s more musical quality.
The Agony & The Ecstasy begins with the the title track, a tune that has a welcoming sense of musicality and a lavish vocal track by Selah Corbin. The uplifting piano chords and string sections of this tune marry perfectly to Selah Corbin’s velvety voice–truly an inspirational track from beginning to end. A slightly different tune for High Contrast on this LP is the sub-170, post-dubstep track called The Only Way There. Like the title track, this tune features Selah Corbin, and it is the one tune on the album that should not be missed. Although it is a slightly different style for HC, it is masterfully arranged with vibes that teeter from dark to soulful. Rounding out the album is the d’n’b rinse-out called Father, Can’t You See I’m Burning? This is typical High Contrast, 170bpm madness, with sophisticated drum programming, an 808-style bass lead, and some old school jungle samples. Perhaps the album title should have just been The Ecstasy, because there is nothing agonizing about it!