Black Labels and White Labels: Blacklink & Gobstopper Experiment

Bangers are out of fashion! Invest in experimental grime!
By    April 8, 2015

Son Raw is limited to 100 copies.

The flip side of grime’s newest wave of emcees is a sudden influx of highly experimental releases, available mostly on extremely limited edition wax. I’ve already spoken on Mumdance & Logos’ weightless movement, but the rabbit hole goes much deeper with both new and established labels twisting grime’s DNA into shapes either more suited for home listening or dance floors looking to go beyond rapid fire percussion and gun claps.

Bristol’s Blacklink Sound planted their flag in the ground last month with their debut compilation, but they’re already back with an official vinyl-only release featuring names like Strict Face, Rabit and Sharp Veins–all acts at the vanguard of grime’s left turns. Notably, those guys all hail from climes far from grime’s UK origins, bringing their own histories and approaches to a genre that could once be contained in just a few postcodes. Rabit & Myth’s “Lonely Backseat Love” for example, flips the U.S. club scene’s passion for R&B, combining it the icy cold deconstructions going on in London. Sharp Veins meanwhile, delivers an ultra glitchy take on Bass music that somehow approximates urban IDM. It all adds up to a boundary pushing releases that sits to the left of pretty much everything else out there. Not a bad place to situate your sound at a time when every other producer is throwing out the rulebook.

Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper Records may not have come out the gate with quite so definitive a mission statement back in 2010, but since it’s relaunch last year, the label has honed in on an icy brand of minimalism centered around Mitch’s own ever decelerating productions. The PEACE 001 white label might be the imprint’s boldest move yet, as it recruits a number of upstarts to provide their own takes on Mitch’s “Peace Edit” concept, in which anthemic stompers are smudged into grime lullabies.

Strict Face once again makes an appearance (seriously, the man is everywhere and still has time for a killer Twitter game, do you ever sleep, mate?) with a spot on cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone,” finding a contemplative beauty in a melody usually associated with raging bros and girls on too many pills. It’s the cheekiest track on here, and perhaps the most effective at pushing the “peace” concept to other genres. Not that the rest of the crew doesn’t hold their own: Loom somehow pushes Kate Bush into glitch-hop territory, The Silk Road Assassins take T-Pain from turnt up to turned off, and Mitch’s Dru Hill flip could have easily made Parallel Memories. Let’s hope volume 2 isn’t far off.

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