Hospital Records Top Ten: An introduction to the world’s best Drum & Bass label

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Hospital Records

Hospital Records have produced some of the best Drum & Bass records known to man and Getintothis’ Banjo and Max Richardson proudly present ten of their very best.

Hospital Records musical output has been of consistently high quality over the past few years.

With soul infused vocals, and crisp, tight mixes, Hospital Records, and their subsidiary label Med School (who we will be including here for the sake of ease) exemplify everything that is good about current Drum & Bass music, producing records equally at home on the dance floor or at home with a cup of tea.

Hospital Records was started by London Elektricity mainman Tony Colman back in 1996.  Over time they have built up a roster of Drum & Bass artists including the incredible Etherwood, Fred V & Grafix, Krakota and, of course, London Elektricty themselves.

They are also justly famous for their live events, put on under the Hospitality name.  From six hour takeovers at Glastonbury and the like, to their Hospitality in the Park festivals in Finsbury Park and even to Hospitality on the Beach 5 day extravaganza’s in Croatia, Hospital Records go the extra mile to promote and share the music they so clearly love.

On a personal note, I remember well the initial rise of Jungle and Drum & Bass in the 90s. With its fierce beats and an identity as a genuinely new form of dance music, it suddenly seemed to be very much in vogue for a year or so.  But, dance music moved quickly in those days and the likes of Speed Garage (remember that?) and hardcore took the spotlight away.

Drum & Bass however turned out to be a flower that bloomed best underground.  Away from the limelight it evolved and grew, a movement unhindered by the unwanted glare of being trendy.  A few years later, I heard The Trip by Logistics and thought it was the best Drum & Bass record I had ever heard.

A little investigation led me to Hospital Records and, since then, Drum & Bass has slowly taken over to be the dominant force in my musical DNA.  Here we can find upbeat dance floor stormers, thoughtful introspective ballades, near-ambient epics and hip hop beats to the power of 10.

With this diverse style, being a fan of Hospital Records means that each new release has the power to surprise, intrigue and captivate listeners.

If you are a fan of Drum & Bass music then you will undoubtedly be familiar with their work. However, if you do not (yet) consider yourself a fan of Drum & Bass, you’re truly missing out on so much good music. Give it a try.

For a starting point for new listeners and as a party mix for experienced junglists, we highly recommend the top ten Hospital Records tracks below.

London Elektricity: Phase Us

Hospital Records’ head honcho London Elektricity has a true corker of an album in Are We There Yet?. For me, a real standout track is Phase Us featuring gorgeous vocals provided courtesy of Emer Dineen, a frequent collaborator with other Hospital artists such as Logistics.

Phase Us simultaneously keeps a half and double time feel, with the fantastically sharp drum samples used in the track a real focal point. The haunting quality of the vocals blends beautifully with London Elektricity’s fluid production skills, a dizzying array of sounds heard all over the mix. A fantastic track, and a great starting point for any new listener.

Krakota: North Winds

Arguably my favourite release by Hospital Records, Krakota’s 2016 album Strange System is a breathtaking collection of tracks all bearing the signature Hospital gloss.

North Winds is jungle tinged Drum & Bass at its finest, with an aggressive drum break which will no doubt stick in the memory for a while after listening.

Krakota’s production skills are evident in North Winds, blending silky smooth pads with sliced vocals and harsh drums with apparent ease, resulting in a real standout track leaving you almost feeling worn out just after listening.

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Hugh Hardie: Emerald City

Hugh Hardie’s Colourspace is a scorching hot album simply begging to be played on a long drive. Stylistically diverse, the album is excellent as a cohesive work and not just a collection of tracks. Emerald City, a collaboration with Shogun RecordsPola & Bryson, is a beautiful track.

For an instrumental track, Emerald City is somehow able to transfer a feeling of emotion almost as powerfully as if the track featured vocals, a true testament to Hardie’s production work.

Emerald City is a dizzying array of sound, with so much going on in the mix it’s hard to pick out individual elements. Even with this large sonic palette, the track never feels like it has too much going on at once, never overwhelming the listener, truly a fine line to tread and one that is masterfully handled.

Logistics: C.Lone

Clocking in at only 02:17 as an outro to Logistics’ latest blinding album, Hologram, C.Lone may appear a bit of an odd choice in a list of top ten Hospital Records tracks.

However, the short but sweet track really blows me away every time I listen, bringing the listener softly back down to Earth after a blistering collection of dance tracks. Slightly reminiscent of Aphex Twin, the ambient track makes a beautiful contrast from the rest of the record, and showcases the breadth of the stylistic output of Hospital Records, and the skills of Logistics as a producer.

It’s hard to remember when listening to C.Lone that the rest of the album contains uptempo dance music, as the track does such a good job of bringing the listener back to the real world.

Whiney: Stranger Tides

The titular track from Whiney’s 2016 EP, Stranger Tides simultaneously fuses elements of jungle and liquid with ease. The Med School prodigy weaves together so many elements and motifs in one track it’s hard to keep track of which way is up, and while this would manifest as incoherent and structureless in the hands of the wrong producer, Whiney’s talents as a producer have resulted in track with just the right blend of familiarity and new motifs.

Crisp synths and tasty vocal samples blend together with ease, producing a truly fantastic track with a huge range of sound. Imagine Stranger Tides as an orchestra of sound material expertly conducted by the virtuosic Whiney, a true stunner of a track.

Etherwood: Light My Way Home

On his 2nd album, Blue Leaves, Etherwood effectively invented Stadium Drum & Bass.

Light My Way Home showcases just what it is that sets Etherwood apart; the ability to meld atmosphere, a catchy melody and Drum & Bass rhythms to a pop sensibility.  It is easy to see how, given enough exposure, this track could (should) have been the one that sent Etherwood and Hospital Records into the highest echelons of stardom.

Starting with a superb vocal and skittering drums,Light My Way Home soon shows its hand as an anthem.  The chorus of ‘I’m so grateful you shine so bright,  like an angel you changed my life’ would have felt as at home with the likes of Madonna, Ella Eyre or Tracey Thorne as it does here with Eva Lazarus.

The first time the beats kick in is a real hands-in-the-air moment of irresistible euphoria.  This is a song which is impossible to sit still to and one that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

Light My Way Home is everything good about Drum & Bass in the 21st Century encapsulated in one 4 minute perfect pop gem.

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Danny Byrd: Just a Step Away

From Danny Byrd’s tremendous 2018 album Atomic Funk, Just a Step Away is a stormer!  It starts of deceptively slight, but when the sub bass kicks in, Just a Step Away hits you square in the chest.

Danny Byrd is the rougher, louder, noisier cousin of the likes of Etherwood and Logistics, and the music he makes is joyous and irresistible.

When the hyperactive 303 acid tweaks kick in, Just a Step Away the song reaches another level entirely.  Impressively, Byrd manages to combine loud and subtle in the one song without either coming off as forced or unnecessary.

If there was a better song than this released last year, I certainly didn’t hear it.

Logistics: The Trip

In some ways, The Trip harks back to earlier times, having a feel of a 90s dancefloor contained in its grooves.  This is probably down to the reverbed voice starting the song by saying ‘Let me take you on a trip, a journey full of sound’, which echoes some of House music’s early tracks.

The beats are low in the mix, but they are relentless and never stop for the whole of the song, making this another irresistible dance floor filler.

As with a lot of Hospital Record’s output there is a soul to the vocals that lift the song and give it a hook catchy enough to send it straight into the brain, where it will lodge for a very long time.

Fred V & Grafix: Ultraviolet

Fred V & Grafix are, without doubt, one of Hospital Records’ brightest stars.  Their Recognise album is a classic of the genre and they are another of Hospital’s acts that could surely cross over into mainstream success if they could only get the break needed.

A gentler proposition than some, Fred V & Grafix produce peerless catchy Drum & Bass.

On Ultraviolet, all of their charms come together in one flawless song.  Look at the rule book for making great singles; Catchy chorus – check.  Simple but effective lyrics – check.  A short breakdown/middle eight – check.  Appeals to the dancefloor – double check.

Just what do bands like this have to do before they are given the respect and sales that lesser acts such as Rudimental have got?  It baffles me really, because Fred V & Grafix should have crossed over into the mainstream years ago.

In the meantime, they are ours and we love them.

The London Elektricity Big Band: Hanging Rock

Those of you who think that the problem with experiencing Drum & Bass live is that it consists of either a DJ or two kids with their heads buried in a laptop need to thin again.

The London Elektricity Big Band are a 100% honest to goodness live band, with a supremely skilled drummer, a full brass section, superb singers and a hyperactive MC.  This album, recorded live at one of their Hospitality in the Park events captures a gig full of so much energy that those in attendance must have been well and truly blown away by it all.

There is a skill here that seems beyond belief, with all instruments and all musicians on stage meshing together perfectly to create songs of such power and dexterity.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t at this festival, but the next time I see The London Elektricity Big Band are playing anywhere in the country I am packing my spotted hanky and heading off without a second thought.

It is easy to imaging somebody coming across this at Glastonbury and wondering just what the hell is going on and how it is that something this good and this powerful isn’t headlining the Pyramid Stage.

This really is as good as it gets.

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