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Sub Focus “Torus” – Album Review

Virgin (2013)

Alongside the likes of Chase & Status, DJ Fresh and Pendulum, British producer Nick Douwma, aka Sub Focus, has been instrumental in drum ‘n’ bass’s second rise from the underground back into the mainstream. But as on his self-titled debut, the 31-year-old has expanded upon the scene’s usual breakneck speed rhythms and adrenaline-pumping basslines for his second album, Torus.

Opening with the booming voice of a U.S. commander sampled from a famous audio recording of a UFO sighting before its Chariots Of Fire-esque one-note synth hook and Middle Eastern chants make way for an increasingly frantic slice of EDM funk, the opening title track alone indicates that Torus isn’t your generic 180 BPM affair.

Equally as schizophrenic is “Out Of Reach,” which begins as a lo-fi fusion of skittering beats, marimbas and steel drums before transforming unexpectedly into a gorgeous 80s-tinged new wave pop number. “Close” and “Turn Back Time” are both brilliantly playful pastiches of the Chicago house sound pioneered by the likes of Farley Jackmaster Funk, while following Zedd’s US Top 10 hit “Clarity,” the throbbing electro of the Drive soundtrack-inspired “Until The End” sees Sub Focus become the latest dance maestro to utilise the dramatic vocals of Foxes.

But accompanied by the likes of retro-soul chanteuse Alice Gold on the soaring 8-bit synths of “Out The Blue,” Alpines’ frontwoman Catherine Pockson on the punchy “Tidal Wave” and the yelping yearning tones of Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke on the swirling dubstep/drum ‘n’ bass hybrid “Turn It Around,” Sub Focus’ inspired array of collaborators ensures that his retreats back into his comfort zone are just as intriguing.

Of course, having already released five singles from the album – “Falling Down” hit the airwaves way back in 2011 – much of Torus may already be overly-familiar, while long-time fans may be disappointed at the lack of pure DnB. But the bassheads who appreciate a bit of genre-hopping should find more than enough to enjoy.

4 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Electronic Music