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Klute’s Tom Withers is one of those rare artists who is capable of transcending his chosen genre—in this case, drum ‘n’ bass. Yes, New Clothes is filled with madly syncopated beats looped at breakneck tempos, but that’s only half the picture. Over these deranged drum patterns, Withers layers a heady mix of atmospheric keyboards, bone-shuddering basslines and melodic hooks that borrow freely from ’70s punk (“Toiler”), chill room dub (“Flight 720”) and everything in between. It’s not quite the jazz-inflected d’n’b of LTJ Bukem, nor the cosmic slop of the genre’s greatest pioneer, Goldie, but it borrows freely from both, and in doing so strikes a nice balance between dancefloor urgency and headphones-filling lushness.
With 20 fairly lengthy tracks spread over two CDs, The Emperor’s New Clothes sometimes drags a little, but track for track, this is the most consistent artist album anyone’s released in the drum ‘n’ bass scene in years. Withers’ gifts as an arranger of densely layered electronica really shine on more ambient tracks like “Outside” and “Sold Out,” but the true jungle and d’n’b heads will gravitate towards frenetic numbers like “Freedom Come” and “Revolution,” as well as the seriously bent breakbeats he employs on starker, more experimental tracks like “Shirtless.” Here’s hoping that Klute can find an audience outside the increasingly attenuated world of drum ‘n’ bass, because he deserves it.