Walk into east-London bar, Queen of Hoxton on the first Saturday night of every month and you are met with a profusion of contradictions. Guests, at various stages of inebriation, are trying to conduct serious conversations over a noisy sound system featuring a delectable selection of the latest house anthems. There’s hardly room to dance, but those still in the premature stages of the evening sway in response to the music as delivered by Temple and Chris Yaxley. This is all just all on the surface of what’s actually going here though. The bright, airy room is somewhat cluttered by a large staircase leading downstairs. It is inevitable that you should
go in this direction upon entering and as you soon make your way down, the artificial light is swallowed by the darkness of the basement. The atmosphere is punctuated by the percussive heavy textures of music that could only exist on this subterranean level. This is Grime. As selected by Different Circles boss-man Jack Adams aka Mumdance. His new EP drops on the 3rd of February on Unknown to the Unknown (you can stream the first cut over at Mixmag below) and I got a chance to ask a few questions about this infamous genre. Grime has seen its fair share of publicity over 2013 and looks set to continue increasing its popularity over the next year too. Factmag has already selected their grime artists too watch for this upcoming season but why has it s popularity spiked suddenly?
Apparently this revival has been a long time coming. “All the core people involved in the “revival” or “new wave” of instrumental grime have actually been making grime for ages, its just that people are just aware of them more now, its a case of a spotlight being shined on the genre for whatever reason.” Grime in its most popular form has been around since 2000, producing household names like Dizzee Rascal and Willey. Some might argue that these artists no longer represent the deluge of current Grime purveyors and I would have to agree. Grime is firmly in the hands of a new generation. A generation whose sole focus falls clearly on an instrumental variation of the genre. When I spoke to Visionist, one of the artists heading this new brigade, in a previous interview I found that he was hesitant to align with this genre fully, claiming that even though he spearheaded some of this movement he would not be caught in a ‘phase’ of popularity but rather develop further. After all, this also could be seen as just part of his constant development, from the ‘Bass’ scene. A scene Jack, too was first categorised in: “When I first came through a few years ago everyone was grouping me, Lvis 1990, Bok Bok, Oneman and Tomb Crew together in the same way, but calling us ‘the new wave of Bass’ or something weird like that. You can see now how each artist has gone their separate way & created their own identity. Its just natural”. I personally believe this is what’s making the genre so exciting in this, its next surge. The producers spearheading the genre today come with a variety of influences. No traditions are observed in the slightest. Everyone is free to interpret it as they wish. It’s still “an extremely small sub-genre of grime that 90% of grime fans aren’t even aware of (yet)” according to Jack. But it is expanding and not just amongst Grime fans, but also amongst electronic music enthusiasts in general. It’s clear to see from the attendance at most Grime nights across London including Different Circles. “The whole idea with Different Circles was to bring different circles of people together with a varied music policy. I listen to a lot of different types of music & I wanted the line-up to reflect that, I guess over the past few months we have been more grime focussed, but I think that’s more because there is just so much good grime about at the moment!” As I walk amongst the revellers in the basement I believe that to be the shared sentiment here. There’s no distinct classification as to the ‘type of music fan’ present. From the uninhibited partygoer to the nodding music-head, they’re all accounted for, and what is unique is that they know exactly where they are and what they’re listening to.
“Grime has always had a varied crowd because it’s a melting pot of influence in itself.” Listening to a few recent mixes by grime artists like Wen, I find that the feeling is mutual. Grime today is not as strictly defined as it was in the past. Even its famous eight bar form is not always present today. It’s eclectic but unique and its difficult to place your finger on what makes a Grime track today. Logos’ Cold Mission album had elements ranging from techno to jungle featuring throughout while acts like Randomer’s explorations in Grime feature nicely alongside his electro catalogue. It seems it’s not even specifically a London Thing anymore. “London is integral to grime, it birthed it, but its no longer exclusive to London, it’s now a nationwide- and dare I say worldwide sound… Well I guess worldwide in the sense that grime has been around long enough to have its own set of musical cues / ideas & idioms which people from around the world are now appropriating into their own music & ideas and creating their own hybrids“
So what makes it grime today. “Energy, aggression, raw under-produced awkward beats, wordplay & minimalism” I can’t argue with that. This genre has always been gritty , it’s even in the name, and this sub-genre is no different. It belongs in a basement. There’s usually a layer of distortion that clings to every kick and bass sound even before the DJ pushes the mixer into the red. In its most popular format, the presence of the MC is regularly required as he quips in his colloquial tongue over whatever daily challenges life might bring in his local burrow. “Grime is always going to be focussed around the MCs I think”, but the MC is largely missing from this current instrumental wave. Jack believes the reason for this is that the more popular MC led format of the genre is: “in a kind of weird Trap induced flux at the moment, which I find really bizarre as they seem to be taking a lot of influence from the US Rappers, where to me, half the point of grime was it was a very UK sound”. The grime of 2013 can stand testament to that response. Yes, sampled vocals were still the order of the day, as it is with most electronic music today, but the MC was unequivocally absent in this instrumental phase. The fact that somebody, like Visionist, a MC by origin, ignores the mic in his productions should say something on that subject. The focus is clearly on the music in its latest incarnation, although we could possibly see the return of the MC in 2014: “I predict a lot more of the ‘new wave’ instrumental lot will be working with MC’s in the coming months as the rest of the grime scene cotton on to it”.
The instrumental sub-genre looks set to continue then on its current trajectory in 2014. Keysound, a label that’s been influential in some of the most prominent releases of last year, “are going to step it up this year. I’ve heard some of the forthcoming stuff and its crazy”. And the genre’s hybrid associations will assuredly grow with it as other labels like “PAN, Tri-Angle, No Symbols, Glacial Sound, Cold Recordings, Lost Codes, Goon Club Allstars & Tectonic” all look set to join the fold in 2014 in Jack’s opinion. It appears that this genre will continually evolve even further in the coming year. More individuals and labels seem to be embracing Grime, but in their own idiom. I see this developing into something more than a genre and more like an attitude. This new wave will be very unfamiliar to its origins. It will be a platform for more than a single genre. It has a certain correlation to the ‘Bass’ trend that a lot of these artists got lumped in with in the first place. But like that trend it doesn’t necessarily allow for a single distinct attribute other than the most important, innovation. Jack sums it up perfectly: “Its easy to get caught up in trends, but I feel the people who make the most timeless & original music are the people who don’t care about outside influence & make music which they like and which suits their own personal tastes. If you are trying to second guess what’s hot, you are following, you aren’t innovating.”