Photo Credit: Teddy Fitzhugh for Crack Magazine
Son Raw is ending careers.
No Wiley review because I’ve written about him elsewhere, but the album’s absolutely brilliant. Here’s some stuff you haven’t heard.
Different Circles– Weightless Vol 2
Mumdance & Logos’ Different Circles mix CD made our best of 2016 list with good reason, and now—starting January 27—you can grab an EP full of that release’s strongest moments. There’s a lot of ground covered here, from the 8-bit chiptune of Inkke’s “Pioneer,” to the noise-core assault of Shapednoise and Fis’ contributions, showcasing just how far the weightless sound has come since the first platter expanded grime’s beatless devil mixes into avant-garde territory. For my money though, the two tracks that bookend the set are the showstealers: Mumdance and Logos blow up Metalheadz, sounding break downs of cavernous sizes on “Café del Mar,” while highly underrated US producer Sharp Veins delivers some of the best backmasked psychedelia since the ’70s on “Already Bones.” Only a few copies left.
President T– T on the Wing
For the second year in a row, Prez T dodged year end lists by surprise-dropping a project in late December, when us critics were off on Holiday. Not that it has harmed his career—in the year since Greatest to Ever Touch Down he has reclaimed his rightful spot among grime’s A-list, appearing on countless tracks and stealing the show each time. T on the Wing sees his peers return the favor, with almost every track featuring a guest verse, and that makes it a tad more slight than last year’s offering. On the other hand, the formula works: each of these hooks can send a crowd into hysterics, and Prez is one of the few old school grime artists to integrate trap production into his aesthetic without it overpowering his style. Bonus points for slewing Danny Weed’s legendary “Salt Beef” instrumental on the album closer “Ending Careers.”
Letta – Redemption
LA producer Letta wears his heart on his sleeve, and in this case, his album title tatted on his arm. With his second Coyote LP, he dives deeper into a hazy, R&B influenced world full of ghosts and specters, abandoning grime’s whiplash intensity almost entirely in favor of a more impressionist take on its frigid sound palettes. The key sound here, ironically enough for instrumental grime, is the vocal—in Letta’s hands, chipmunk soul reaches ethereal proportions, divas twisted beyond cartoonish parody into the realm of the pained. Even on more traditional grime numbers like the title track—a first rate sinogrime banger—vocal snippets are looped, twisted, dissected, and repeated until they’re numb, and it’s hard to tell the flutes from the voices. As for moodier moments like “Everything,” the commercial sheen and sheer pillowiness of the source material gets flipped into a sonic talisman for the lost and abandoned.
Yamaneko – Project Nautilus (Keygen Loops)
Local Action’s Yamaneko makes music that thrives on being disorienting. Whereas most grime aspires to hulking machismo, his albums feel like miniatures—the realm of toy soldiers fighting on a sonic battlefield full of videogame references and tiny drums. It’s a startlingly unique sound and one I was unsure how I felt about when he dropped his debut LP Pixel Wave Embrace, but Project Nautilus toughens things up considerably without losing what makes his music so unique.
This is still head music, but it’s darker and more sleep-deprived than anything he’s made before. The album was supposedly conceived during an incredibly difficult time, and you can hear the fraying edges. Though easily the most oblique album in this month’s wrap up, it’s also one that I’ve repeatedly come back to since its November release, and one that deserves some shine in the wider electronic music community. It won’t necessarily fit in there any more than it does with grime, but it certainly deserves the recognition.
AJ Tracey – Lil Tracey
Of all the (don’t call them new wave) grime emcees that came up on London’s booming internet radio scene over the past two years, AJ Tracey’s the most likely to blow up thanks to a Drake cosign (whatever that’s worth), genuine hit songs, best newcomer nominations, and a headlining UK tour. His latest EP, Lil Tracey continues to showcase how he has cracked the code, combining radio’s high speed bars to more road level drug-dealing boasts and storytelling. To my ears, a lot UK drill artists have the content, but the style is too copy-cat, serving as a UK version of a sound I’ve already heard. Meanwhile, radio is littered with able grime emcees unable to write full songs. Here, Tracey gives us the best of both worlds, which means even his left turns into trap make sense. He’s not Skepta yet, but he’s on the way…