October 8, 2013

Son Raw is floating on a Kush cloud.

How far can you push street music before it becomes something else entirely? This is what goes through my mind when listening to Houston-based producer Rabit’s Sun Showers EP, a release that pushes up against the limits of dance music’s structure all while making use of its techniques and signifiers. With the exception of Levels, a crypt dry DJ tool along the lines of a recent Hessle Audio or Club Constructions release, none of the music on this release relies on drums for momentum, instead floating on waves of bass and empty space. It’s miles away from the functional MC food conventionally known as Grime, but it isn’t club ready dance music either. Instead, Sun Showers demands to be taken on its own terms, and charts an interesting path beyond genre conventions.

Of course, we’d seen similar attempts to stretch out Techno’s futurism beyond the dance floor in the 90s with what later (unfortunately) became known as IDM, but Detroit’s lofty ideals lent themselves to such pursuits – not so with Grime, a genre rooted in MC-based rudeness and dance floor chaos. Nevertheless, Rabit’s music draws from an essential strand of Eski-DNA: the devil mixes where producer Wiley would remove the drums from his beats, leaving bare space for his crew to rhyme on. Those productions were built on 8-bar loops however: by taking this idea to an illogical conclusion, Rabit has created shimmering compositions altogether unrecognizable to anyone expecting “beats” – had I been given this music with no information on who made it, I might have thought it a museum piece by someone with a PHD in sound design or something.

Context aside, the tunes are great. Title track Sun Showers recalls an alien soundscape of crystal and glass, as mysterious as it is inviting. 40 Below combines sparse bongos and cavernous reverb to constantly disassemble and reassemble what sounds like a child playing in the middle of a drive-by shooting. Finally, Black Bag relies most heavily on contemporary Grime, parlaying a massive bass line and processed vocals into sci-fi frost. It’s a daring release recalling the best of Lee Gamble’s recent work, an exploration of the breakdowns between dance music drops and fantastic listening for rainy October nights. Rabit can handle dance floor functionalism as well (see the free, non-EP track below) but by daring to cut things down to a bare minimum, he may have found something else entirely.

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