Son Raw worked the whole month of April, just to take May off.
I took a month off, but the grime scene didn’t. In fact, the artists surrounding Boxed had a particularly fruitful holiday season.
Boxed Records – Boxed 001
First, Slackk, Oil Gang, Logos, and Mr Mitch teamed up to launch a Boxed label as an outlet for the kind of sounds you’re liable to hear at their parties or during their Rinse FM radio show. While this might seem like overkill at first considering all four have their own solo imprints, Boxed001 makes it clear that the group label is set to occupy a more club-centric space, and that the common ground between the four is a fruitful one. Lloyd SB’s “X Out” and Trends’ reconstruction of Geeneus’ “Old Skool 2” in particular are some of the hardest hitting club tools to see release in recent memory, casting aside the genre’s more melodic side. On the surface, Spokes’ drumless “Tragedy in the Jasmine Garden” tacks the opposite direction, but it’s still easy to imagine it opening a Mr Mitch set before getting cut into a drum track. It’s Slackk and Dullah Beatz’ “Forest Walk” that finds the perfect middle ground however, if by middle ground you mean JRPG flutes colliding with Japanese drums and Ross grunts. An auspicious start to what has the potential to become an era-defining label.
Dullah Beatz – Balleys On EP
Speaking of Dullah Beatz, he’s probably not the first person you’d think of when it comes to grime’s emotional side. Whether DJ’ing for scene icon Big Narstie, MC’ing and co-producing as one third of grime supergroup Edgem or mixing his own no-nonsense trap bangers, he’s built a rep for ultra-heavy functionalism over fussiness. His debut 12’’ for Oil Gang does a fine job of dismantling that idea however, showcasing an altogether more experimental and melodic side of his sound. Yes, “Bally’s On” is the kind of gothic, Ross-drenched exercise in horror-movie beat science we’d expect, but it avoids the standard formula, heightening the tension for over a winding two minutes ahead of the drop. Meanwhile, “Time” and “Oil Gang” (the label finally gets its theme song!) sail on top of industrial strength dub reggae basslines with the same kind of regal synth leads that made JT The Goon’s King Triton such a success. “Floating” even features the kind of steel drum pattern you might have gotten from a vintage 50 Cent track. With their pressing plant troubles done for, Oil Gang are set to do some serious damage in 2016.
JT The Goon – “Oil On Ice”
What’s that you say? You’ve barely gotten your head around JT The Goon’s King Triton? Well, there’s already more on the way, with a backstory to boot. Almost a lost-dub, “Oil On Ice” has been on Keysound’s wishlist since 2013, but the label is finally set to drop it this month. With a hypnotic synth line reminiscent of Starkey’s work for the label way back at the turn of the decade, it’s a choice cut, leaner and spacier than most of JT’s work for Oil Gang, let alone his distorted rudeness as part of Edgem. Intriguingly, the label also commissioned a series of VIPs at slower tempos, and these alternate versions stick to the original’s sound palette while rolling at more conventional dance tempos. You can imagine a particularly clued in house or techno DJ mixing this into a set, something I never thought I’d ever say about a JT tune.
Sir Pixalot–Voyage EP
Finally, Sir Pixalot’s another producer that straddles the line between pure instrumentals and riddims for emcees to shell on, and he’s up there with Trends and Spooky as far as the nastiest basslines go. Whereas those guys usually stick to pure crud, Pixalot often offsets his sub frequencies with shimmering arpeggios, the results finding a sweet spot between the genre’s functional and spacey sides. The title track to The Voyage EP was last heard backing AJ Tracey’s “Italy,” but it sounds even better fully mastered as a club track. The rest of the EP follows suit, with “Argentina” being my personal pick thanks to that absolutely huge low end, which rips at you like the tide in a hurricane. Mix it with a track from the Boxed 12″ mentioned above for best results.