The Keysound label, helmed by Blackdown, continues what has so far been a pretty stellar year release wise, with the anticipated debut album from Sully, “Carrier”. For the uninitiated, Sully is a British producer who has been steadily building his name and reputation over the last five years with diverse, quality releases across labels – that show a deep understanding and appreciation for both dubstep and British dance music’s roots, blended with a modern take that has made for refreshing musical nuggets.
On “Carrier” he delves deep into two – seemingly unrelated – inspirations of current British dance music: 2step garage and footwork/juke. Yes, it seems like an odd combination at first - yet it works quite beautifully. The content of the album was first hinted at on his 12” for Keysound released last year, “The Loot (Remix) b/w In Some Pattern”, and is solidified on “Carrier”. There is a roughly even split across the ten tracks: the first five hark back to the glory days of 2step garage and British rave, while the second half is full on juke/footwork interpretations.
His take on 2step is spread across the first four tracks, a perfect blend of old and new that manages to take all that was good and exciting about the glory days of 2step garage and blend it with an updated sound that keeps the swing strong and neatly updates it for a new audience - or an eager older, reminiscing bunch. I was never a big fan of dubstep’s 2step roots, yet Sully manages to really focus on what made some of it so great, especially its swing and use of female vocal samples on both the opener “It’s Your Love” and the second track “2Hearts”. “In Some Pattern” follows by taking things back a little further in time, with a garage backbone fused with ecstatic rave synths and a flip halfway through that will likely induce pleasure and a knowing smile from older listeners.
It’s around the half way mark, with the track “Let You Know”, that Sully starts to go down a darker, house influenced road that eventually fully breaks into Chicago’s juke and footwork. “Let You Know” is one of the highlights of the album alongside “In Some Pattern”; with its repetitive vocal sample and riddim blending elements of both house and 2step. What then follows, on “Scram”, “I Know”, “Trust” and “Bonafide”, is Sully’s own take on Chicago’s latest, popular dance offering. It’s an interesting one because on the first few listens the fact that he switches tempos and styles doesn’t seem jarring at all, until your brain sort of catches on and realises that your ears have gone from 2step to juke/footwork effortlessly. The productions are just as quality as the first half, with Sully managing to bring a little bit of London’s darker vibes to the sound. “I Know” is easily my favourite of these tracks with its piano sample and the trademark jittery hi hats and drum patterns of Chicago’s juke and footwork. He brings back the piano vibes on “Bonafide”, which acts as a very nice comedown from what came previously - with a more subdued rhythmic foundation that still tips its hat towards Chicago, but neatly flips it by cutting up the trademark jittering beats into a vibe more akin to halfstep. The emotional impact of the piano is what really makes this track rather beautiful though, with a pervading melancholy that is really quite something.
The last track, “Exit”, concludes the come down with an ambient vibe that somehow manages to unite the various key elements that Sully has touched upon throughout the album. From the ethereal, Burial-esque vocals - to juke inspired snippets of drum patterns, alongside another melancholic keyboard melody.
“Carrier” is a perfect addition to the Keysound back catalogue tapping into both the label’s relationship with London’s unique modern musical heritage and its interest in new dance music mutations. Short and to the point, it’s both a great - at times quite cinematic - headphone listen and a record full of dancefloor joints that will surely be heard across the world for the coming months, and maybe even years.