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Son Raw’s waiting for a dance tune that samples that Manson record.
Instrumental grime is sustainable.
That’s not a very sexy headline, but it’s a hard fought victory in a UK music scene with a diminishing club infrastructure, a fleeting audience and a bustle of subgenres competing for attention. While grime emcees graduate to elder statesmen roles or try to figure out their place in a world where vocalists are expected to deliver hits across BPMS and formats, instrumental grime seems to be solidifying it’s as a cottage industry, and finally accepting its perhaps inevitable merger with the non-EDM branch of dubstep.
After all, both scenes have lost their weirder/leftfield producers to either techno or pure experimental music, and the center of gravity for both has shifted from UK clubs, to Croatia’s Outlook festival: the Mecca for all things bass.
With that in mind, Trends & Boylan’s Bedlam isn’t just their debut LP: it’s a feature length advertisement for just how much they’re going to smash that festival’s boat parties next year. Ultra heavy, terrifyingly loud and enamored with horror movie tropes, this is instrumental grime completely comfortable as a soundtrack for teenaged thrills and completely uninterested in reaching out beyond the bass music massive.
This tunnel vision serves them well: having already muscled into grime’s upper echelon via bangers like “Norman Bates,” “Untouchable” and “Krueger,” there’s little reason for them to make overtures to bespectacled techno lovers who’d probably turn their noses up at this stuff anyways. Instead, Bedlam consolidates the best of grime and dubstep into one tidy, made for 2019 package. It’s the perfect music to annoy your uptight neighbor who just wants to enjoy a glass of Chardonnay while listening to Mumford and Sons.
After a scene setting (and blood curdling) introduction co-produced with grime godfather Slimzee, Bedlam jumps into the thick of things with an album edit of “Krueger,” the first of three vocal tracks featuring long-time collaborator Riko Dan, the only vocalist on the album. The combination of ragga-inflected bars, chilly strings and enormous sub-frequencies all mark Bedlam as a direct ancestor of The Bug’s London Zoo, one of the best albums to merge dubstep and grime to heavyweight industrial sonics. Whereas The Bug occasionally had a love-hate relationship with dubstep’s swagger and machismo however, Trends and Boylan revel in it. By the very next track, they’re teaming up with Spooky, a fellow grime legend, only to take a sharp right turn from grime into dubstep’s bouncy triplets, and they continue zig-zagging across the heaviest elements of both genres, twisting them into new shapes.
Though hardly a concept album, they push their limited palette to its limits: often building tracks off of little but movie dialogue, face-smacking drums, terrifying orchestral hits and of course, bass. It sounds great in the whip, almost certainly sounds even better coming out of a giant stack of speakers, and makes no sense coming out of tiny ear buds or playing in the background. It’s the soundtrack to a full body release, music to party to as the world comes apart (or the UK heads towards a no deal Brexit).