December 2, 2013

Son Raw ain’t your motherfuckin’ boy.

Like GZA said in 95 – you gotta read the label. If Dubstep had one advantage over Grime early on, it was  independent outlets such as Tempa and Planet Mu spreading the sound beyond the South London boroughs. Grime on the other hand, mostly existed through a sub-underground economy: self pressed white labels and street DVDs sold out of local shops mirroring New York’s Canal Street sales, a strategy which wasn’t a bad way to create hype but didn’t manages to spread the sound far beyond its home base. Today, the game done changed and an unexamined motor of Grime’s instrumental renaissance has been a new crop of independent, internet based labels: Butterz, No Hats No Hoods, Keysound, Coyote Records, Gobstopper, Lost Codes, Ghost House, Bandulu, Harddrive, and Liminal Sound among others. Throw in the labels behind today’s spotlight and you’ve got a major piece of why a new wave of producers made so much noise this year.

First up, we’ve got the Dublin-based Glacial Sound, an imprint previously responsible for Houston producer Rabit’s Double Dragon EP, a pairing that showcased Grime’s new found global reach. The label’s latest looks closer to  home however, with a couple of tracks by London-via-Manchester based Murlo. Combining Dancehall and Soca rhythms with hollowed out squarewaves straight from Wiley and Jammer’s Sino-Grime period, the hyper-melodic, slightly detuned strings evoke an alien world at the intersection of Neo Tokyo, Mumbai and London. It’s not quite as dance floor oriented as material by Terror Danjah, not quite as weird as Logos nor as aggressive as Spooky, but it’s compulsively listenable and a guaranteed “what the fuck” moment in the club, a quality that takes a release from good to “must have.” Meanwhile, remixes by Swing Ting and Slackk redirect the tunes towards steady beats and outer-space respectively, expanding the EP’s reach into DJ friendly territory without pandering to established conventions. It’s a bold release that bodes well for an imprint worth keeping an eye on.

Next, London-based imprint Goon Club Allstars comes through with a debut release from MssingNo. Run by up and coming talent Moleskin, the label’s only previous release was a vinyl only bootleg editing Wiley classics into contemporary forms, but their latest release is all original and, crucially, available as a digital release. If there’s been one overplayed trope in “tasteful” dance music circles over the past two years, it’s been pitched down R&B samples that reduce talented singers to little more than engines for androgynous grunts, so I was extremely surprised to hear  MssingNo find a fresh take by sampling divas such as Brandy, Rihanna and er… R. Kelly. Drawing from Dipset and Ruff Sqwad’s chipmunk soul period, tracks like Skeezers, XE2 and (the sadly unreleased) Brandy Flip accelerate and pitch up their vocals to extreme degrees, with an effect somewhere between a child, a robot and something out of Japanese Anime. There’s something not-quite-right about flipping The R’s “I’m a flirt” into a mournful, elegiastic piece of high drama, letting the drums come in more than half way into the proceedings. Better yet, even the darker tracks contain melodies for days, making this release an appealing one for non DJs a well. As the saying goes: tip.

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