In spite of his feelings on those who shark bite its soundtrack, Son Raw has seen Akira eight times.
I’m not going to lie: I don’t go in for most of the Grime X Club stuff. The idea is sound in theory – bolster grime’s frost-laden futurism with slightly more danceable grooves and muscular sound design, but in practice the results almost always sound like the work of a dork who just saw Akira and downloaded a cracked copy of Massive, complete with terrible cyber-punk artwork. Way too much of it ends up sounding like a bad approximation of both.
Famous Eno’s Music for Clubs avoids that pitfall. For one, it doesn’t sound like a dystopian sound design demo – you can dance to it, and for another, despite inviting Roll Deep veteran and ragga mercenary ‘pon mic Killa P for a turn, it owes little to Grime. Instead, the record connects the dots across localized dance scenes via an impressively global roster of emcees: Unique3 for Jersey, the aforementioned Killa P alongside Trigganom for London, Jamaica’s Bay-C, and Ghana’s Bryte. And while Famous Eno’s riddims would be convincing in their own right, involving all of the right players makes the release one to celebrate: we’ve thankfully come a long way since the days where European producers would swoop up foreign club styles without engaging in mutually beneficial collaboration.
Take “Make it Clap” with Unique3, a tremendous Jersey Club DJ and producer in her own right. Here she adds a heavy dose of US energy to a beat that alternates between chest-boxing claustrophobia and a celebratory bounce. One second you’re scrunching your face at the bassweight but the next you’re throwing your hands in the air. ‘London’, Killa P’s solo venture is the closest thing to pure grime, but with ragga vocals soaked in autotune and a mournful string section, it’s equally reminiscent of dancehall icon Mavado’s best work. Even Bay-C’s pure dancehall heat ‘Gal a Bubble’ borrows from UK Funky, continuing the genre cross-pollination.
At a time when club music seems to be retreating into art house snobbery to distance itself from the mainstream’s commercial dominance, it’s refreshing to hear a project that keeps the energy levels high, the pretension low and the vibes authentic. Stylistically, music for clubs is pure 2018, but its soul is rooted in dance music’s best traditions.