May 18, 2012

Son Raw is electric sliding to this one.

“But is it Grime?” That question seems to be popping up with increasing frequency as the London based mutation of Garage and Hip-Hop nears its 10 year milestone. Whether it’s the rise of “road rap” explicitly rejecting dance music as a reference point or major label pop rappers aiming for that Lupe Fiasco money, it seems like the best way for a UK emcee to get a buzz these days is to disavow any connection to the movement which elevated rhyming in the UK beyond thinly veiled snickers. Thankfully, the scrappy mongrel of a genre has proven to be nothing if not adaptable, shfting its focus back towards a new generation of producers with Swindle at the forefront. Except, you might wonder if his latest missives are Grime as well.

The obvious answer is that Swindle makes Grime because he says he does but his output has never fit neatly into a box, pushing the sound forward with a singular aesthetic that might be the most modern funk science has devised yet. Tracks like “Tongue Tied” feature enough vocoders, slap bass and organ runs to place him in an older continuum of Soul music reaching back to the 70s, even as the tempos and electronic low end mean they’re Grime to the core. This shifting play between old school jamming and electronic textures is at the heart of his appeal: even when the Sam Frank collabo  shifts into a high energy drop, the song maintains a buoyant, organic quality and it’s the track’s slow-jam core that’s the real revelation. A sultry, sleazy robo-ballad the song answers the age old question of “what would Future’s music sound like if it was made by an androgynous Brit?” – “Tongue Tied” is seduction music for a generation that spends more time communicating via Blackberry than face-to-face. While I hope he sticks to 140BPM instrumentals for a while still, there’s definitely a future in urban pop for Swindle if he chooses to answer the calling – all he needs is the right vocalist and I’m pretty sure Puffy’s done returning Janelle Monae’s calls.

Until then, the rest of the producer’s recent work will serve as a reminder of what he does best – high-energy missives from a world where Techno didn’t forget its Funkadelic roots and where 90s gaming and rave music remain primary musical reference points. “Have a Go” sees the producer adapting his futuristic church music to the rhythmic psychedelia of Funky House for a jazzy slice of funk primed for the late night hours but it’s forthcoming Deep Medi release  “Do the Jazz” that might be the pick of the litter. From the doo-wop vocals to the hand claps to the rumbling low end, screeching synths and deceptively energetic rhythm, it’s one of the most anthemic slices of UK dance music in a minute, the kind of release that breaches hype cycles and pushes producers outside of genre boundaries and comfort zones. Thankfully Swindle seems up to the task – with those tunes primed (and recent release Unlimited, Pineapple and Ignition still heating up dance floors) he’s having the kind of banner year that got recently got Royal-T a prime-time Rinse.FM spot and album deal. They’d be wise to snap Swindle up as well.

MP3: Swindle ft. Sam Frank – Tongue Tied

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