August 17, 2011

Sach O is terrifying and dangerous on the decks.

Terror Danjah had one of the most productive years in recent memory in 2010, going from “that other guy who invented Grime with Wiley” to a properly celebrated producer equally comfortable getting grimey on Butterz and Harddrive as he was dropping gremlin sounds on Planet Mu and Hyperdub. My favorite TD joint of the year however was his remix of Rox’ My Baby Left Me: a high-contrast sugar-rush of Motown pianos, Dubstep Bass and sub-Adelle soul that bridged the gap between UK pop’s retromania and the UK underground’s future shock. It was a bit of an anomaly, neither a full-fledged pop-grab nor an underground banger but the song best illustrated the mongrel-mix of styles that forms TD’s appeal, a mix that thankfully makes a comeback on Full Attention.

Combining Junglist drum fills, R&B vocals, Dubstep squelch and Grime percussion, Full Attention feels nothing if not “urban.” If I have one issue with the critically acclaimed side of Bass music these days, it’s that it occasionally feels too safe and studied, lacking the grit and up-front appeal that comes with wanting to make a London-banger instead of an international-House crossover. No such concerns here, the half-step bass explorations go straight for the jugular and the syrupy vocals aim for radio, marking it as closer to Cher Lloyd than Ramadanman even as the production quality thankfully veers closer to the later. It’s the sweet-sour interplay that makes the whole thing work, the anti-music bass drops colliding with the slow-burning pop hook. In an era where producers are more likely to chop an old vocal up than record a new one, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air and one that hopefully inspires more attempts at vocal tunes…even if the term Rhythm & Grime never did sound right.

Not that I’m dismissing old vocals outright, there’s some wonderful things to be done with them. Take Greensleeves latest project: a classic dancehall single a month gets the remix treatment from a current Dubstep superstar. It’s a fun little experiment, the flip side to Scientist’s much vaunted dubbing of the new generation on Tectonic, with urban LDN given free reign to re-contextualize its Jamaican roots. My favorites so far have been the singles that strip these songs down to their primal, voodun components, eliminating the populist gloss inherent in big bashment tunes in favor of the twitchy, nervous quality inherent in the best of Dubstep. The Bug & Flowdan’s flip on Ding Dong’s Badman is a definite stand out, as is Terror Danjah’s remix of Admiral Bailey’s Jump Up. Once again mining jungle for percussive intensity, the track provides the perfect flip to Full Atttention as it reprises the song’s structure but intensifies the gloom ten-fold for maximum dread. For a producer best known for a sense of playfulness and lazer-bright synths, it’s a definite departure but one that bodes well: if you can drop a dangerously-edgy dancehall refix and a shoot-for-the-stars pop tune in the same month, you’re on the right track.

Download:
Full Attention (Soundboy Version) – Live at Cable Club London by terrordanjah