Like their more common alias Technical Itch, the work of Darren Beale and Mark Caro as Decoder skirts the leading edge of progressive drum'n'bass, incorporating the moodier elements of jump-up and techstep with a nod toward drum-twisting junglists such as Dom & Roland and the Penny Black label. Although the duo have deepest roots in the late-'80s hardcore breakbeat scene, their material both apart and together has tended toward the darkside, combining dense, unsettling atmospherics with complex, bruising drum patterns and deep sub-bass groans. In addition to Decoder and Technical Itch (the latter coming from their Bristol-based Tech Itch recording studio), Caro and Beale have also recorded as Kutta (for Rough Tone), T.I.C. (for Back 2 Basics), and Alpha Proxima (for Au Toi). The pair's earliest tracks came toward the peak end of the U.K. hardcore scene; both Beale and Caro were noted DJs, with Beale's recorded work as Orca adding to his renown. Introduced by a mutual friend, they released their first record together as Plasmic Life on Bizzy B's Brain Records, and by the early '90s, were moving away from the conventions of hardcore, following breakbeat into the less static realms of darkside and hardstep jungle. Still only a part-time collaboration, the pair's partnership deepened after Omni Trio's Rob Haigh heard a Tech Itch track on Kenny Ken's Kiss FM show, leading to their signing with Haigh's home-based Moving Shadow in 1996. The pair produced a number of singles as Technical Itch for the label that same year, with scores of tracks as Decoder and T.I.C. continuing to appear on their own and other labels, marking the pair as one of the more prolific (and increasingly influential) of the new crop. A 1998 Decoder full-length was their first LP out of the gate, though Tech Itch's Diagnostics followed one year later on Moving Shadow. ~ Sean Cooper

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