September 24, 2013

Son Raw is a gawd. No pastries required.

Reconfiguration is the word to play in UK dance music right now. Long past a single-genre singularity and finally distancing themselves from the post-everything soup of “Bass Music” that characterized the Dubstep diaspora, today’s producers are combining Afro-Caribbean riddims with London darkness, Grime’s sparseness to bassweight and Trap’s hi-hats to…never mind, we’re all sick of Trap.

Keysound’s latest release – Etch’s Oldschool Methods EP – goes even further back, harkening to the distant days of Jungle. While Drum & Bass itself is currently finding a rich vein of inspiration in Chicago Juke, Etch’s slowed down variations can instead be traced back to Toasty and Search & Destroy’s Breakstep experiments which combined ultra-precise drums to ever-more-menacing low-end. There’s also a hint of Burial here, but whereas Will Bevan makes music that sounds like a thrice-warped tape pack from the saddest rave ever, Etch shines those ideas and brings them into focus: you can actually play these out in a set without a major drop in fidelity. Though perhaps a bit more retrospective than most of the music I enjoy, there’s no doubt that in the right context all of these tunes can do some serious damage in the dance, ideology be damned.

Whereas Etch explores Jungle, Boxed resident Slackk continues to treat classic Grime as his own personal playground, exploring once discarded ideas and reshaping them to fit his needs. His Failed Gods EP out now on Local Action features everything from soaring futurism (Empty Bottles) to hollowed out DJ tools (Algiers and Room Made Vague) to cinematic aggression (Shogun Assassin) to 80s boogie samples and an ambient mood piece (Silk Robes and Jackpines respectively). Though bearing an obvious debt to Wiley and Ruff Sqwad’s best, these productions are miles removed from the functionalist MC food that defined Grime’s first wave, or even the club-friendly aggro-funk that brought the genre back to prominence over the past few years. Instead, these tracks occupy the narrow space between sound-system music and tunes for the head: melodic and complex enough for the iPod but built for a wall of subs. With Grime’s war phase petering out, those just tuning in would do well to check this out: this genre has way more to offer than 2 minute beat-sketches.

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