Son Raw di baddest selecta.
Trends come and go, genres fade away, but The Bug remains eternal. Kevin Martin’s principal alias is flexible—he released a stormy, doom-psych album about LA alongside west coast band Earth just a few months ago—but it ultimately rests on a rock solid foundation of bass weight. Let everyone else worry about what’s new, The Bug can trace its lineage to the dreadest of Lee Perry’s experiments and can adapt to the times with only a slight shift in rhythmic emphasis.
“Bad” is his latest collaboration with ex-Roll Deep general Flow Dan—his most reliable and rewarding confidante—and it’s a clear nod to their forefathers. Grime’s rhythmic matrix almost always allows for a half-time crawl, but here, it’s impossible to chug along at anything faster than a 70BPM bounce. Meanwhile, Flow Dan’s vocals recall soundclash classics, the type of events Flow Dan’s uncles or older cousins might have attended, and whose sonic touchstones would morph into grime in the hands of a younger generation.
In short, it’s ragga, early dancehall, which is a perilous genre to wade into unprepared. If the sound is ever so slightly put on it sounds like the worst fakery, but veer too close to tradition and you risk staleness. It’s a testament to each artist’s restlessness and inventiveness that they neither settle for cleaned up digi dub, nor do they falter on the execution.
Sure, the flow is pure ’80s ragga, but uniquely English accentuations abound—Flow Dan’s mom is refered to as mumzy, a British turn of phrase as foreign to Jamaica as patois to Iowa. Meanwhile, Martin’s scorched earth industrial take on dub is a corrupted take on the Jamaican original, one filtered through years of On U Sound and various strands of extreme music. The result is a fond take on a shared musical foundation, but one by two artists who revel in pushing each other towards deeper and darker extremes.
It’s also a welcome oddball in today’s musical climate, far more adventurous than dubstep’s deeper end and defiantly uncommercial at a time when grime artists are racing to sell out stadiums. Given DJs are leftfield as Nina Kravitz has picked up on it, however, it’s also a strong sign that there’s no need to fit in with the in crowd when the music’s this good. My only complaint? It’s another loosie. Guys: just give the world a Bug VS. Flowdan full length already. It’s time.