“I’ve always been into very futuristic sounds,” Nick Douwma, aka Sub Focus, tells Apple Music. “But on this album, there’s a thread of nostalgia running through it too. I grew up in the ’90s and I wanted to reference some of the sounds that had a formative influence on me, whether that’s things I was into like The Chemical Brothers or breakbeat and jungle, or things like happy hardcore which I just absorbed by osmosis through friends who were into it at the time.” On his third full-length solo album (and fourth album when counting Portals, the 2020 collaborative effort with Wilkinson), the UK producer simultaneously finds himself pushing his music into new shapes and dimensions while drawing on what brought him to dance music in the first place. “I’ve been finessing my sound and working out the other genres and sounds that I suit beyond drum ’n’ bass,” he says of the album, which encompasses guests ranging from house hitmakers CamelPhat to elusive D’n’B adventurer Jonny L. “I’m enjoying making music more than ever, and I hope that comes across on this album.” Read on for his track-by-track guide to Evolve. “Trip” “I wanted to have a big intro song to kick off the record, and this track definitely feels like you’re at the start of a journey. I got really into using modal keys—different musical keys which are neither major or minor. This tune’s in a Mixolydian key and it sits weirdly somewhere between major and minor and has a slightly trippy feel to it. Myself and [London producer] Metrik have been big fans of each other’s work for a while, and this was the perfect idea to work on together.” “Calling for a Sign” (feat. Kelli-Leigh) “Kelli is an incredible vocalist and writer and has strong opinions but is very economical with her ideas. We worked on a few tracks, but the vocal for this was an idea she’d written and sung over my track ‘Solar System.’ It really inspired me to write something new for the vocal. One thing I love on this track is how we hold back all the chord changes until much further into the build, so the song evolves really nicely.” “Fine Day” “I’ve wanted to do something with this sample for a very long time. It’s a really famous sample with a fascinating history and was originally written by an English poet called Edward Barton in 1983 and recorded as an a cappella by his friend Jane Lancaster [‘It’s a Fine Day’ by Jane]. Most famously it was sampled by Opus III [on ‘It’s a Fine Day’] and then later Orbital [on ‘Halcyon’]. The vocal almost sounds like a snippet from an old folk song which has been passed down for years and years. I hadn’t heard it for ages and had never heard it in a drum ’n’ bass track and wanted to put my own spin on it. I made it for a set at Arcadia in Glastonbury in 2022 and it got such a good reaction I knew I had to finish it and clear the sample.” “Vibration (One More Time)” [feat. AR/CO] “AR/CO are a duo but they create this sound where they almost sound like a choir by piecing multiple takes of their vocals together. I made this instrumental the night before our session, played it to them, and they immediately came up with the vocal idea and explained to me what to do to record all the takes. They’re so quick at assembling their sound. It’s a really interesting process.” “It’s Time” “I love spoken-word verses on house tracks, and Gene [Farris] is one of the iconic voices of the genre. There’s a bit of a Chemical Brothers feel to the track too. I love that feeling of chaos and mayhem you get in a Chemical Brothers set when you watch them live, with all these different styles, voices, and pitches going on at the same time before it all comes back together for the drop. I was trying to emulate that.” “Ready to Fly” “Myself and Dimension unexpectedly had quite a big hit with our track ‘Desire’ in 2018, and this is the follow-up. We wrote it in the run-up to our set at Arcadia in Glastonbury in 2022, and it starts with a vocal Rob [Etheridge, Dimension] brought in which we sped up. We took some influence from my youth and my mates’ happy hardcore records, and people seem to go absolutely crazy for the 4/4 drop in it.” “Alarm” (feat. MC ID) “Myself and MC ID have been performing together for over 10 years, so it’s great to finally make a track together. The track has been an in-demand dub from my sets for years, and I was just looking for the right vocal for it. It’s got a bit of a dub reggae influence, but it was mostly designed as a track with a smoother bass sound which I could mix into other tracks easily.” “Off the Ground” “I wrote this track with Poppy Baskcomb—a really talented songwriter and vocalist who’s really on fire at the moment. I premiered it at my first solo Printworks [London club and venue] show and it was a massive moment. The clips of it really seemed to go viral and it felt like a really organic start to the album campaign.” “Waiting” (feat. Kelli-Leigh) “Pola & Bryson are one of the most talented drum ’n’ bass acts around right now. They’re known for more melodic, liquid drum ’n’ bass, and that’s the feel of this track. We worked on the track together in the morning, then Kelli came to the studio in the afternoon and wrote the hook straight away. There’s a magic to when a track comes together really quickly, and we felt great about it straight away.” “I Found You” (feat. Hayla) “I wrote this track with Becky Hill just before the first lockdown. Then [UK singer-songwriter] Hayla came in and did an amazing job on the vocal, and it was a really big moment when I played it at my Wembley show [in March 2023]. It’s another liquid drum ’n’ bass track in a major key. I tried to cover all the different bases and variations of drum ’n’ bass on this album, and I wanted to make it a bit of a journey through all the subgenres.” “Secrets” (feat. Rhodesy) “I remixed a track for CamelPhat a while back and we just stayed in touch and kept sending each other ideas back and forth. They sent me this track ‘Secrets,’ which felt like a slightly different vibe for them. I loved it but wasn’t sure what to do with it. Then I thought it would fuse really well with an idea I’d been working on with Culture Shock. Since Portals, I’ve figured out which other genres outside of drum ’n’ bass I can bring to the table, and something like this with a slower breakbeat tempo really works.” “Overcome” (feat. Frances) “I love the almost gospel feel of Frances’ vocals here. She’s a great singer and songwriter who’s been around for a while and has done a lot of work with SG Lewis. This is another track with quite a liquid feel and it came together really quickly. It’s got a wonderful uplifting feeling to it.” “Don’t Want to Come Down” (feat. LOWES) “LOWES are a trio and I remixed their collab with CamelPhat, ‘Easier,’ a while back. I really wanted to link up with them again, and we worked on a few drum ’n’ bass ideas, but I loved this broken-beat idea we ended up working on. It’s just got that end-of-the-night and end-of-the-set feel to it. It’s a vibe I really love.” “Turn Up the Bass” (feat. Jonny L) “Jonny L is a hero of mine. He’s a legend in the drum ’n’ bass scene but is very enigmatic too. I was chatting to Nick Halkes, who co-founded XL Records and used to manage The Prodigy, and he put me in touch with Jonny. There’s an old track of his called ‘Turn Up the Bass’ [as Mr L] which I felt was underappreciated in drum ’n’ bass. I got him to rerecord the a cappella for it and then I had the vocal for years but didn’t feel that I had an idea which could do it justice. Then I hit on this which just seemed to work. I wanted to do the second drop as an old-school Amen-break workout to finish the album, and the rest of the track has quite a euphoric feel. I absolutely love his vocals on this, and it’s just the perfect way to finish the album.”

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