Dimension has had one of the biggest blow ups of any drum & bass artist in recent years, especially thanks to the massive, unexpected success of “Desire” with Sub Focus, released back in 2018. Since then, he’s released other chart toppers like “Devotion” feat. Cameron Hayes and the huge club stomper, “If You Want To.”
Now, three years after that first breakout release, Organ, the debut album from Dimension, is here.
Ahead of the release, we got in touch with Dimension’s team and asked if he could do a track-by-track review of the project — what we weren’t expecting was over 3300 words of insight, background, and analysis. But, all the same, we were overjoyed to have it and see the passion that Dimension holds for his own work.
Without further ado… Organ
The birth of this record bizarrely came from a writing session that was initially intended for track 17, ’Sensory Division’. I had the fantastically talented Jem Cooke in the studio and together, we wrote what is now the vocal for ‘Saviour’. The vocal Jem and I wrote was great, however, it felt as though it was taking away from the minimalist vision I had for Sensory Division, so I pitched down Jem’s takes and reverse engineered a new song, writing all the new musical elements around the vocal. Due to the derogatory effect pitching vocals can have on the quality of audio, I wanted to re-record the vocal with a singer who’s vocal register sat perfectly in the key of the new track. I did some research and came across Sharlene Hector – she came into the studio and gave me goosebumps for two hours straight.
The vocal felt so powerful that I wanted to keep the intro as subtle and complimentary as possible, so the listener would be completely dialed in with minimal distractions. When the main hook, ‘As I move’ first comes in, the music almost completely disappears to further enhance this. As the musical elements build in crescendo to the drop the intention was to create an enormous release of tension and emotion. From a mix point of view, I pushed the drop further than I usually would because I wanted the listener experience an enormous wall of energy.
‘Alive’ comes from particularly unusual origins. It is a combination of two ideas; a voice memo I recorded on a ski lift in Jasna, Slovakia and a sketch I drafted on a flight to Denver during the Worship North America tour. The basic influence of the record comes from listening to Chemical Brothers ‘No Geography’, where the main musical motif is a hook based around a chord sequence as apposed to a more traditional monophonic sequence. By pure coincidence, I realised these two ideas fused perfectly with one another, so I created a new project and merged both songs into one.
The track felt in a good place and the basic arrangement and melody felt solid. One day, Matt Wilson was in the studio and he suggested working with a new talent called ‘Poppy’. I remember he sent me an audio file on WhatsApp and I was blown away, so I immediately got in touch to book in a session. A couple of weeks later, Poppy Baskcomb was in the studio. I played her a rough instrumental of what at the time was called ‘Jasna + Chems Tune’, she liked it, so we sat down and wrote the full vocal of ‘Alive’ in a couple of hours. Poppy always used to make me laugh because her sense of humour is ‘The Office’ but her voice is that of an angel.
After I released ‘UK’, I really wanted to get GQ in the studio. Not only is his voice synonymous with UK rave culture, but it’s great fun creating ‘samples’ as it gives you the flexibility of controlling what the samples say as well as their tone and timbre. I remember telling Gary just to forget you’re in the studio and imagine you’re on stage at 3am on a Saturday night he was just unstoppable. Line after line of gold, I remember having this realisation as to how much of a privilege it was to have MCGQ in the studio. I sat on his vocal probably 3-4 years – I didn’t want to force it.
Eventually I created a skippy, 808 beat that felt right for the samples we created, but after playing out the record a couple of times, I wasn’t happy with how it was making me feel; I wanted to do the vocal justice. I ended up reworking the tune and the difference was huge – suddenly, I was really enjoying playing it in my sets and was getting a reaction. I really wanted something super club focused on the album and ‘Danger’ certainly ticked the box.
The track was written in various parts across the world; LA, London, Bermuda and Miami and was the follow up to ‘Desire’. It was a crazy time in my life, Desire was exploding but personally, I’d just gone through a really bad break up, so this track gave real focus and positive energy. ‘Desire’ completely exceeded mine and Sub Focus’ expectations so I wanted this track to be a message to my fans; ‘regardless of commercial success, my music won’t change’.
This track really sums up the Dimension ‘sound’ for me, addictive melody, power, darkness and energy. I wrote the vocal with the outrageously talented Cameron Hayes, we referenced ‘Rui Da Silva – Touch Me In The Morning’ to achieve that classic dance floor authenticity. I co-wrote the vocal on Culture Shock’s ‘Renaissance’ using a similar technique.
The track started life on a train in France travelling from Paris, heading West, four or five years ago. The original influence from the track comes from listening to ‘Ohio Players – Funky Worm’. I love the style and attitude of that Westcoast style lead. I’m a huge lover of hard, industrial soundscapes and combining those tones with classic 808 and 909 hits was a lot of fun. At 25 seconds in, when the track breaks down, I used the Juno 108 for the pulsing bass and the Arturia Minibrute for the pitch modulated arp & Westcoast lead, so at that precise moment the signal chain is 100% analogue. It gives this super warm, slightly out-of-tune mystique.
I knew the track needed more, a hook of some form. The tune was already pretty abrasive and I wanted a vocal to further push the agenda. I got in touch with Knytro who, in my opinion, is one of the most slept on rappers in the world. An outrageous talent, unbelievable attitude and delivery.
‘Remedy’ was my personal challenge to try and create a real earworm. I’d been reading about the structure and cadence of vocals and what makes them addictive. Seb, my manager, enlightened me on something called the ‘rollercoaster’ technique which is a technique a lot of the most addictive hooks melodically imitate; start, incline, hit their peak and then slowly step down.
The initial vocal idea came from a session I had with RAYE a couple of years ago – she’s now one of the biggest song writers in the UK. I have to say, she is still is one the most impressive artists I’ve ever worked with. I played her an instrumental once, she stood up and immediately wrote three wildly different – equally as good – songs to the same backing track. It felt like I was watching the film ‘Amadeus’. Fast forward a couple of years and I’d written the rough instrumental to ‘Remedy’ and was looking for some vocal spark.
I dragged in some ad libs from the old RAYE session and – bang – it worked perfectly with the melody. I remember being so excited that I was sending videos to Seb at one in the morning. I knew the vocal was the one but the lyrical content was just gibberish, plus, I needed a verse, so I phoned Sam Harper – a singer/songwriter who I love working with – and we wrote the track together.
I’d always wanted to work the TS Graye, she is an undeniable talent who, I’m certain, will be a future star. Since 2012, I’d recorded all of my vocals through a Rode K2 microphone through various pre’s but in this instant, it was not the best match for TS Graye’s nuanced voice. I needed something warming so I borrowed a vintage Neumann U67 (with an eye watering price tag of about £12,000) and the difference was night and day. It transformed the track and made the vocal sit beautifully, giving it the warm, youthful attitude it needed. It was a real lesson to me that occasionally, the right microphone really makes a huge difference.
UK Border Patrol
I started working on ‘UK Border Patrol’ on Christmas Day a couple of years back – cheery – I know. Most of the musical elements including the Eastern string sounds, particularly in the first two minutes or so are all recorded directly from the M1 Korg. I’m big a DJ Shadow fan and his records definitely inspired this track, particularly the drums, plus, I wanted to have something that showed a different, more refined side to my production.
I decided early on never to involve ‘Dimension’ in current affairs or politics, my job as an artist is simply to create an escapist dream, to tell a story. With that said, however, I wanted to contextualise the famous ‘Your names not down, you’re not coming in’ sample in a new light that reflects the ideology of modern day Britain. I just want people to think, that’s all.
I wanted to create a track for DJs – a tune that mixed really well with other records but held up musically on its own right. I kept trying to write a vocal for this tune, but really struggled to come up with anything that I liked. In the end, Seb convinced me to put in the album as an instrumental.
I used a lot of theologically inspired sound palettes in this track; choirs, organs, harps – I wanted to try and create a sense of grandeur, something beyond the realm of man. I felt these aesthetics would be an ecclesiastical backdrop for what is a very direct, driving melodic rhythm. It’s always fun playing with hooks or melodies that register in more mid-range frequencies, it adds a certain girth or thickness to the mix. A lot of the pads and FX in this track are recorded on my modular set up.
I love use of language as medium for emotional perception. Isn’t it funny how when we hear French we conjure up feelings of, ‘sex or romance’, yet when we hear German we think, ‘utilitarian, efficiency’. It can be such a powerful tool in music and wanted to further investigate the power of linguistics.
I have somewhat of an interest with Soviet Russia – it’s unexpectedly shaped my life in a couple of ways. I wanted the musical backdrop of hard, techno, soviet soundscapes combined with the vocal frustrations of darkness and the renegade attitude of modern Russian sonic youth.
The song was to be unforgiving, unrelenting and evoke feelings of submissiveness to power. One of my favourite bits on the album is how ‘Altar’ is super brutal, combined with the unexpected very major, happy chords in the second breakdown. It felt, to me, that it created a twisted, unsettling notion, an audio aesthetic of treachery, an iron first, a smile before an act of violence.
Love To Give
This track started in 2018. I had just purchased my Juno 108 the day before on eBay and was in such a rush to get home that I managed to pick up a speeding ticket on the way home. This horribly offset the money I was hoping to save on postage. James Culture Shock and I recorded a series of chords through it and it sounded so good – so good, in fact, that in its inception, the track had an indulgent two minute intro.
As often can be the case, the project lied dormant for over two years. We decided to get into the studio again and whilst working on ‘Don’t Sleep’, hit a dead end. Suddenly we remembered our old project and opened it up, bounced out some stems and drew in the main synth lead – the rest followed.
Working with James is always an eye opener. He is a master of his craft and achieves amazing results through some pretty unusual methods. It was a pleasure writing this track with him and I’m really proud of the songwriting. It’s worth mentioning that I was already a big Billy Lockett fan, so it was a real honour to be able to get him into the studio. He writes and sings with so much positivity and is ridiculously talented.
I wrote this song with Matt Wilson, who quite literally would not stop laying down takes until it was perfect. I think he had to stop as he was singing himself hoarse. Personally, I love to write vocals that have hidden meanings or are open to interpretation, but on this occasion I wanted to write a song that carried a very clear personal message. I’d like to think it translates to the listener – it really came from the heart. I think Matt’s boyish vocals and powerful delivery really does it justice. The other unusual thing about this track is that it’s a 4×4 beat but at a very slow tempo of 92 bpm which creates this really driving, pounding beat. The bass in the intro is all Moog Model D, probably my favourite synth.
‘Offender’ started off as a remix for The Prodigy’s ‘Light Up The Sky’ but was actually rejected. I was playing it as a dub in my sets for a while but after the tragic passing of Keith Flint it didn’t feel appropriate anymore. I ended up reworking the track completely – I love music that evokes very clear emotions or paints a very clear pictures in ones head. I’ve always wanted to create a proper acid trance inspired D&B track – that genre has so many great industrial sonic references. ‘Offender’ is of course a homage to ‘Public Domain – Operation Blade’ and the famous opening scene of the first Blade film – I thought, ‘How fun would it be if I could try and recreate that crazy, dark, chaotic rave feel in 2021?’.
Originally I was struggling to get the drop right, it just wasn’t sitting happily on a breakbeat. It was only until I put the 4×4 kick underneath the acid line did things really come together. I remember thinking, ‘What on earth have I made?!’. I was unsure of how the track would go down because it was so outside of the box, but it’s been one of the biggest tunes in my set. I purchased a 303 specifically for this track and used it extensively.
I can confidently say this was the hardest song to finish on the album. I went through so many different iterations of this song, heard it so many times that I began to lose all forms of subjectivity. I recorded Liam Bailey 3-4 years ago and was just blown away by his level of talent. Having toured with him before, I knew Liam is such an amazing force of energy. Also, sessions with him are fast because he’s so good. I think Liam did an amazing job of delivering and writing the vocal, I love the message – the tainted optimism of man – and you can really hear he means what he’s singing.
I needed a second ear so my good friend Jono from Ekko & Sidetrack came to the studio in the final few weeks before the album deadline and gave me some really good advice. He touched on the fact that the drums were too ‘up-front’ and he correctly suggested that it would benefit the album to have something more rolling and lead by breaks. The strings underneath Liam’s vocal in the breakdowns (0:22) is Massive VST run through a guitar amp and rerecorded with a mic, that’s why it’s hard to decipher exactly what instrument it is. There are also no vocal samples in this song, everything was recorded in my studio. Gina Kushka sang the vocal hook on the drop, not only does she have an incredible voice, but she’s a really talented painter.
I wrote ‘Plus Minus’ three days before delivery day and I have to say it’s probably one of my favourites. I really wanted an exercise in simplicity. I love experimenting with the minimal/maximal approach to dance music – trying to get the most groove and energy out of the most few elements. The drop is a kick, snare, a hat, one pulsing held bassline and a two note square wave melody.
This track also highlights my love of house and techno and the unusual arrangement, long breakdown and build-up was inspired by Ludwig Göransson film-scoring work. At track 14 on the album, I found the track palette cleansing as it’s so stripped back. It felt ‘fun’ having the track start simply on an open square wave without any fancy tricks or processing – in that sense – the track is a little bit of a statement.
I saw Metallica at Reading Festival and James Hetfield, the lead singer, opened up the performance with, ‘Good evening Reading Festival! Are you ready to rock?! Do you feel alive?!’ – I thought, fuck, that is just such a good line.
Although I appreciate drum and bass which is influenced by rock, it’s not particularly an aesthetic I gravitate towards – so I wanted to put a different spin on spoken word. I’m really into Louisahhh (particularly her Shadow Work EP and tunes with Maelstrom). ‘Hatred’ was really inspired by her work.
Working with E11e, the spoken word vocalist, was an interesting journey – she actually used to be the office manager where MTA Records were based – that’s how we were put in touch. She did an amazing job recreating my vision. The intro is all analogue, even most of the drums, which is why it all sounds a bit ‘off’ and whacky. I really enjoy how unapologetic this track is.
Nick Sub Focus and I got into the studio together and just had a lot of fun. We were playing on his modular set up, he was showing me his new Make Noise Morphagene module and we made a pad, put it through Paul Stretch and that was the first element which stuck. We made some rough parts, a vague arrangement and decided to reconvene in a week or so. I was so desperate to work with Nick that I wrote three separate drops and sent them to Nick. One of the three tracks incorporated the bass and lead combination which you hear on the record now, so to my surprise, Nick suggested that’s the one we should work on, so we met up again and worked on it together.
The vocal, again, came from a session I recorded with RAYE – at the start it was just a mishmash of ad libs but we pieced them together and made a coherent melody out of them. We asked Kudu Blue to come in and revocal the track together; Nick, Clementine and myself wrote the vocal. It was extremely organic and an absolute pleasure to be a part of.
This track really exploded well beyond anyone’s expectations. As an artist, when a track finds so much commercial success it’s an amazing yet odd feeling, it’s almost as if you lose control, the record just runs away from you and does its own thing.
I had 26 vocal sessions for ‘Sensory Division’. Men, woman, Grammy winners – the lot. This might sound over the top for how simple vocal ended up on the track, but due to the songs arrangement, the track was incredible hard to crack. I wanted something simple, haunting and addictive but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t nail it. I wrote and wrote but had no luck, I was getting frustrated and was considering leaving it as an instrumental. Finally, the exceptionally Clementine Douglas came into the studio and we nailed it. She really understood what I was trying to achieve. I just fell in love with the chords and desperately wanted to do them justice.
One of my favourite parts of the track is the operatic vocal I recorded with Katey Brookes at the beginning of the second breakdown, it’s something really unusual which you don’t hear much of in drum & bass and I think it’s a poetic point of difference. I also love how the verse comes in so late into the track, almost as homage to the progressive house tunes it is influenced by. 28 seconds into the track there is an egg shaker which I recorded in a basement studio in Estonia through a Russian microphone made by a company called Soyuz. Their microphones are produced with old automatic Kalashnikov equipment.