Bristol-based producer Drone considerably levered his notoriety in and out of the grime scene through the release of last year’s fantastic Arctic / Flux on Hear Other Sounds, whose A-Side is probably one of the finest tunes heard in the 140 BPM spectrum in 2017. This year’s self-titled Drone USB release followed suit, featuring ten first-class tracks that once more showcased his mastery of grime beats taking cues from trap rhythms and dubstep’s sense of space and dread. The follow-up, Sapphire, deservedly lands on Boofy and Lemzly Dale’s Sector 7 Sounds imprint, alongside the works of other renowned producers such as Hi5Ghost or Jook.
The whole EP sees Drone going yet one step further in the refinement of his sound, gaining even more control over every single element to give each sound its optimal expression. This is evidenced by the title track, which opens the EP with restraint and class. The dynamics of the track lie on a minimalist, slow-paced bass, contrasting with faster trap-infused hats; its whole character is built on a diffuse, floating sound mist, giving the track its eerie atmosphere that is sure to make an impression in any set. “Sapphire” is a tune that stands out from the pack, but one that does so through uniqueness and ability to build its own sonic bubble – an impressive feat that confirms the impressions left by Drone’s last two releases.
Though more usual in its structure and use of melody, “Been This Way” doesn’t prove unworthy of the first track’s heights – whereas “Sapphire” was a weird construction held together through the use of grime and trap signifiers, “Been This Way” is like a 140 BPM banger to which a few elements have been removed to have it exist in its own sphere. It seems to follow its own path, matching “Sapphire”’s glacial ambiance, before coming together in the second half as the beat fills up, rising efficiency. Rounding up the vinyl version of the release is “East Coast Edit”, which makes good use of the same kind of bass-led tension that was central in the first track’s energy. Following the same model, heavy atmospherics revolve around a steady drum beat, offering one more prime example of what made Drone one of the distinctive producers working in the grime cannon at the moment.