It’s been said that nothing drives creative and collaborative advancement more than a little friction. Perhaps that can explain the way that German duo Rawtekk have created such an intense record which seems to stand and cast shadows over many of the 2016 electronic music releases. The fact that they’re a married couple with years of experience as a sound design team has to count for something too. But in a 2013 interview they revealed how they both tend to communicate through music and work to push each other forward. If Here’s to Them is any indication, there’s something dark and troubled going on at the Rawtekk family home and they may have pushed each other straight into madness.

As a whole, the album sounds like Fever Ray getting lost at an underground drum and bass party but such a description feels inadequate. The real similarity is in the attention to sonic detail and production quality. Opening track “The Hatch” wastes no time shifting from a brief squealing atmosphere to cave-diving into a violent abyss. The volume and pressure of the drums punch holes in your ears as a seemingly relentless lead-up to Christine Westphal’s demonic and twisted, yet oddly appealing vocal verse.

The title track “Here’s to Them” picks up the torch from there and despite being half-time still manages to sound like one of the most aggressive tracks on the record. It’s hard to say, really. They’re all as horrifying and haunting as they are deliciously meaty ear fodder. There is a little bit more of a dubstep feel to this track which is not likely to bother anyone. Rather than being typical of any genre, it seems to slowly plod wherever it wants, all over the genre map.

“Aftermath” is one of the most blatant exploitations of incredible audio filters that we’ve seen in recent years. It clomps along abstractly snarling out basslines like an agitated tiger trying to decide between pouncing on its prey or running off into the woods for fear of being eaten alive by some large and very intimidating force.

This is territory last explored by Montreal’s Amon Tobin on his ISAM release and even that was accompanied by a giant stage and projector show. The goal here seems to be the same as it was on Rawtekk’s previous work—knock it out of the park.

Every track on this record is great, but all of them for very different reasons. “Restless” feels like a subdued break from the rest of the album which nevertheless follows an almost liquid rolling drum loop and bassline. Laying over a vocal track is a rare thing in Drum & Bass of this caliber—most bands preferring a repeating soul hook or sample. Rawtekk flips it on its head and has Christine performing a sweet and syrupy melody all the while a storm is brewing just behind her. That storm culminates in the dance floor stomper “Vantage Point.”

“Aeons” is an incredibly dense ambient number, speckled with the blood of a thousand sacrificed percussion instruments while “Walkabout” channels that directly into a house track which would melt the brains of most who’ve spent the last few years seeing the subtleties of the genre lost to the bombast of electro-club.

The subgenre of Neurofunk, with its stark and dark “possessed robot” approach to percussion-as-king and speed as necessary, is leading the way in Drum & Bass in 2016. The rise of Current Value, Mefjus and other similar underground superstars in the genre has helped pave the way for Rawtekk to reach new audiences through simple word of mouth and of course the handy recommendation engine—since you like music that sounds like a walk in an exploding mushroom cloud, you’ll probably dig Rawtekk.

Simply put, it’s one of the best records of the year so far. For its scope and the flawless way it expands into that scope. It takes liberties with sound experiments, makes no compromise on vocal fitness. Even if you’re not a Drum & Bass fan, there is a musical experience here worth having. Because it’s focused around such a small subculture as Drum & Bass—particularly in the US and Canada—it’s likely that it’ll float away unnoticed, like an apparition in a dark corridor. In this case, however, do yourself a favor and follow it down.

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