The long awaited debut album from UK Bass powerhouse T Q D is finally here, and we couldn’t wait to review it.
It seems like we had to wait forever since it was announced, but ‘ukg’ eventually dropped last Friday. Featuring 13 tracks (if you got the Bandcamp download version), 8 of which you can hear on T Q D’s Soundcloud for absolutely free, the body of work is as good as you would expect from 3 of the scene’s top producers, if not even better.
As huge fans of all 3 artists individually, and the T Q D project as a whole, it only made sense to sit down and give ‘ukg’ a review as a whole idea. Obviously we’ve heard the tracks that are on Soundcloud, but how they fit in to the flow of the album is just as important as how hard they bang.
Here’s our thoughts as we listened through to T Q D’s ‘ukg’, properly, for the first time.
T Q D. Royal T, DJ Q, Flava D. The album opens with one of the trio’s many Intro tracks. Under the voice of Vicky Grout are pitched vocals and the atmospheric sounds of nature. Lush, bright pads filter their way in and out, slowly building tension before trailing off. Not just a track to let you know exactly who you’re listening to, ‘Intro 4’ is a clear indicator of what to expect in the next 50 or so minutes.
‘Vibsing Ting’ starts with pitched and chopped vocals, as thick pads and sexy keys build the track up with a meaty kick drum. The rest of the drums are saved until the drop, which gives so much energy it’s almost worth a pull up just for that. Add the massive, wobbling basslines and the album has its first banger. The contrast between the breakdown and the main sections is brilliant – they’re so different but the transitions are smooth. On each of the 3 drops, the bass switches it’s pattern up, with each switch bringing a slightly different vibe. T Q D said on Twitter ‘Vibsing Ting’ was the first track they made together. We think there was a moment during it’s production where they all looked at each other and realised they could do something massive.
Ghosts (ft P Money)
With the original already being uploaded to UKF, a bold decision was made a week before the album dropped – getting P Money to vocal ‘Ghosts’, helping add a Grime edge to the project. It was an inspired decision and the track now sounds fresh, with heaps of new energy. P, as ever, combines the right amount of intelligent wordplay (is there a festival he doesn’t manage to fit into that verse? ) with a chorus to get hype to. Musically, an eery marimba-sounding riff and a low vocal entwine with the drums coming in as the track works up towards the drop. The first main section is on a bright bouncy vibe, where as the longer second section switches up with a more sinister, darker sounding womp. This works well as it allows more space in the mix for P’s vocal, making sure you really hear everything he’s saying.
The P Money version of Ghosts was only made last week, felt like the LP was missing that grime touch a bit—
tqd (@tqdukg) March 17, 2017
A Letter to EZ
One of the later tracks to be uploaded to Soundcloud, ‘A Letter to EZ’ pays homage to the legendary DJ EZ. One of our favourite tracks off the album, there is some serious 4×4 Todd Edwards vibes going – insanely catchy vocal chopping, tough, shuffling drums you can’t help nod your head to, dreamy chord stabs, earworm riffs and weighty basslines. We can’t help but feel the quick-repeat vocal cuts at the beginning are where the track gets it’s name from, as they sound uncannily like a Cue button getting hammered in the same way EZ would. Interestingly, ‘A Letter to EZ’ is apparently the only track on ‘ukg’ that was made with T, Q and D producing a whole section each; the order is Q, D, T, which we proudly worked out first time. Royal T gives himself away with a sound not too dissimilar to the main bass in ‘I Know You Want Me’. DJ Q was harder to place but was identifiable from the Bassline inspired second half of the first drop, which just left Flava D in the middle, with her basses reminding us of a couple off of her ‘More Love’ release.
‘Touch’ opens with more gorgeous stabs, smothered in reverb, over background atmospherics and sensual, chopped vocals providing both melodic and rhythmic content alongside percussion. The vocals open up a bit more as a huge sub comes in with a brassier sounding pad and a g-funk sounding lead line. There’s something about ‘Touch’ that reassures you from the start that there isn’t going to be a switch up on the drop. Instead, it’s fully committed to being a smooth, soulful slice of 2 step. There is a drop, but it’s understated, intentionally not detracting from any of the other elements. After 3 high energy tracks focused on the rave, ‘Touch’ is a welcome break to breathe and gather your thoughts and really allows you to admire the softer side of T Q D. We’ve no problem admitting when we first heard the album would be called ‘ukg’, we were worried it would be a club focused release that forgot about the emotions in UK Garage. Upon hearing ‘Touch’, we knew we didn’t have to worry about that any more.
We can’t put our finger on why, but the start of ‘Baked Beans’ instantly reminded us of MJ Cole, which of course is no bad thing. The track is a bonafide garage jam, which T Q D said people might not expect from them. To us it makes perfect sense; all 3 make no attempt at hiding the influence UK Garage has had on their careers, neither does the rest of the album, so we fully expected a track like this. There’s pitched vocals all over the place, giving the track it’s title, with a variety of chords, pads and stabs filling gaps between 2 step drums. The first drop is sick; a chunky bassline works in amongst the skippy drums as the vocal is restrained, before giving away to a brighter section where the chords come back. There’s a breakdown before the second part, which switches to 4×4 and a variation on the vocal. An undeniable bubbler, to us ‘Baked Beans’ is one of the defining tracks of ‘ukg’.
Baked Beans is obvs just a bit of fun maybe not what people would expect from us weirdly but these bits came out really naturally—
tqd (@tqdukg) March 17, 2017
‘Hold Me’ opens with a warm, lush pad and teasing vocal snippets which filter in before being joined by a subby Reese and shuffling snares. The build up to the drop is brief, reminding us of older garage tracks – less about risers and white noise, more about building natural tension up to a flash of nothing but the tails of echoes, before dropping. The main section of the track is very classy; the bassline takes a backseat as the vocal switches up and down octaves over stripped-back 2 step drums and interjecting stabs. More and more is gradually added to the mix, starting with gentle retro arpeggios. Then comes the classic M1 sounding organ and staccato strings. Before the 2nd breakdown, the bass is swapped out for the Reese from the start, before layers and layers of keys are adding, once again building a more natural kind of tension before dropping once more, this time without the vocals. Top rate garage.
New Day (ft Swindle & Skilliam)
At just over 2 minutes long, ‘New Day’ acts as an interlude, almost. Featuring label mate Swindle and one of Butterz’ head honchos, Skilliam, on bass, it’s a family affair. Starting with shuffling drums and guitar chords, it takes almost half the track to drop into a funky bassline and gorgeous, full piano chords, with a g-funk lead line. Before the track ends there’s just enough time to squeeze in a choir, and then as quick as it started, it’s all over. Think 2 step meets funk on the first day of summer and you’re kind of there.
One of our favourite T Q D tracks from the moment we first heard it, Only One has been around a while (including being featured on Flava D’s FabricLive CD). It’s a downbeat, emotional track, starting with pads swelling up and falling away again and huge reverbs everywhere. The main rimshot sounds ridiculously crisp and the vocal is eerie and beautiful at the same time. The build up is slow and concise, and as the drums and sub drop out, a dreamy piano works its way into the mix. The drop is unexpected, but not overwhelming; in fact not much has changed from the intro apart from the introduction of a rumbling Reese. There’s a second breakdown similar to the first, before another drop. This time, T Q D have opted for a bouncier bass sound and a percussive riff smothered in reverb pans from ear to ear. The outro is as unrushed as the intro, allowing you to get swept away in one of the huge pad swells.
On Apple Music, Three Eyes is the end of the album, and it’s definitely a fitting final track. It’s the only tune on the album without any drums (other than what sounds like a giant timpani and some crashes) and reminded us instantly of Royal-T’s ‘Angel Mix’ of ‘Glacier’. There’s even more reminders of T, thanks to flashes of a vocal we’re certain is on ‘Inside The Ride‘. Musically, it’s epic. Huge orchestral arrangements are the main backing for diva vocals and a high pitched riff. If you listen carefully, there’s even splashes of Spanish guitar thrown in as part of what would be considered the ‘breakdown’. As ‘Three Eyes’ comes to a close, Vicky Grout’s voice reappears, as a gentle reminder to who it was who just kept your attention for the last 10 tracks. And then it’s over….
Bass Fest (Bandcamp Bonus)
As a bonus for the people who purchased the album via the trio’s Bandcamp page, ‘Bass Fest’ acts as a not so subtle hint that you definitely need to be going to the festival of the same name. A throwback to original Bassline, there’s sexy vocals, sumptuous chords, a high pitched squelchy bass topper and bitch-slap-claps.
Also included in the Bandcamp download are T Q D’s previous single Day and Night [Day Mix] and the remix of Royal T’s original ‘Limbo’. As both have been available since 2015, we didn’t see the need to review them, however you can listen to them below:
Day & Night [Day Mix]
Selecta’s Favourite Track – Hold Me / A Letter To EZ
Overall Rating – 9/10
Butterz second ever full length release could have been a different story had T Q D chosen to put together 10 club friendly bangers and release it as an album. Instead, they’ve crafted a brilliant body of work, drawing from their collective influences of Grime, Bassline, House and, of course, UK Garage. Each track brings something different to the table, but the whole project feels together; not one tune feels like it was thrown in as a filler. Anyone who says UK Garage is a dieing genre needs to listen to ‘ukg’ and they’ll see it’s simply not true.
You can buy your copy of T Q D – ‘ukg’ from the T Q D bandcamp, in many formats including USB and Vinyl. Stream the Soundcloud playlist in full below: