Son Raw lives in a 1970s progressive rock album cover.
Electronic music trends towards extremes. The rhythmic stuff can be little more than drums and a bass line while melodic tunes can be as expansive as their creators’ imaginations. Count Shriekin’s work in the later category: the Irish prodigy might have been inspired by the off kilter funk invented by crews like Ruff Sqwad a decade ago, but there’s a vastness to his music that evokes imaginary landscapes rather than cramped council estates. First listening to Gold & Featherwork, his debut EP for Local Action, it’s hard not to be stunned by just how lush everything is; even by today’s hi-fidelity standards, this is Grime ready to soundtrack a forthcoming Square-Enix game rather than a Lord of The Mics set. That hasn’t stopped scene-leading DJs like Slackk, Spooky and Blackdown from playing his music, but it also hints at Shriekin’s potential to go beyond his genre’s confines – there’s no reason for DJs like S-Type, Lunice or Cashmere Cat not to play these tunes.
Cat’s Eyes and Temple 2 book end the EP with pentatonic melodies, synthesized strings pulled straight out of the PS1 era and twisty, evolving structures. While every producer and their mother has given Sino-Grime a whirl recently, Shriekin’s work stands head and shoulders above the competition, balancing grandiosity with electro-funk grooves. Frankly, his only competition right now is scene veteran JT the Goon whose recent dubplates explore a similarly epic vibe. As you might guess, follow up Snowy Island Breaks resurrects a break beat approach to great effect, but it’s the title’s “snowy island” section that’s worth mentioning, as Shriekin manages to pull off a Wiley-inspired Eski vibe without sounding derivative. Again, his music stands out from the competition by using old styles as an inspiration to go further, rather than as a model to imitate. Sure Zinc made break beat Garage and Wiley found inspiration in sub zero sounds, but it’s hard to imagine either of them sounding like this.
Steel Ships rounds out the release with a reflective vibe and aquatic sound effects that somehow mesh with the East London drums, sounding like Dot Rotten if he’d chilled out and gone to smoked a spliff with Enya. It’s perhaps the best representation of Shriekin’s approach – a rigid adherence to Grime’s next level rhythms combined to a sense of melody that connects the original wave’s unique ticks to a broader musical universe. Gold and Featherwork is a release perfectly at home on Local Action next to music by Inkke, Finn and Slackk who’ve all pushed Grime further than anyone thought possible this year. If this is a peak, then we’re already lucky but in Shriekin’s case, I have a feeling he’s just getting started.