According to the OED grime is: “A form of dance music influenced by UK garage, characterised by machine-like sounds.” “Machine-like sounds” seems a bit trite and could characterise anything from techno to drone music. No, Urban dictionary seems to have a better understanding of the genre: “It’s the inner city music scene of London. And is also a lot to do with representing the place you live or have grown up in.” That’s better. Grime is not about a style of music for me, but more about a place. Having lived in London, I cannot separate the genre from the city and I find it is reciprocated in the city’s living. Grime informs much of its culture and it is patently moving towards an international listening audience. I am not referring here to the Trance induced exploits of Dizzy Rascal or Tinnie Tempa, but rather the more instrumental accomplishments of artists such as Randomer, Visionist and Logos. The latter has just released a new album. The likes of which is sure to increase this international audience. The Keysound affiliate and London resident has just released is first full length LP on his own label. Cold Mission is only his third release but sounds like any well-seasoned grime producer should.
Another definition for grime is “dirt ingrained on the surface of something”. It is obvious from listening to any grime track, why the genre appropriated this name. This form of music is dirty. It punctuated by distorted kicks and deep, hollow bass nuances that start around 130BPM. It’s percussive and its melodies are as dark as the weather…. Hang on a minute. Two tracks into Cold Mission and I seem to be in some ethereal dreamscape. Ex101 and Stasis Jam are masterfully textured synth and sample based compositions that are only accented by the odd percussive element. I could easily be listening to Oneothrix Point Never if it wasn’t for the drums being so prominent in the mix. It is a prime example of how Grime has always embraced other genres.
By track 4, Swarming, the filth starts shining through more clearly and the ubiquitous cocking-gun and spin-back sample starts appearing. Still fore grounded by what I assume is a modulating Juno 106 synth, these first few tracks are very similar and could have easily been one long track that might have caused the honest-to-god grime enthusiast to switch over. A little patience however and he would have soon been rewarded with Seawolf and Alien Shapes. Both are built from the drums up with the latter being collaborative effort with another London grime duo, Dusk and Blackdown. Alien Shapes is a really interesting listen. It’s a good combination of elements that are stereotypically grime, and some of the more experimental adventures that featured on the opening tracks. Scattered beats hold a hollow bass line together while vocal samples hint at the “spacey” effects of that modulating synth that appear on occasion. You should expect to hear this occupying many a dance floor in the coming months.
This trend carries nicely into Menace, with its grime-familiar string stabs that bring back memories of Randomer’s Nar. The space theme that dominates the album soon returns in title track, Cold Mission. The soundtrack-esque production brings back the sci-fi theme that holds the whole album together. Grime usually only works in EP form, since it soon becomes very repetitive, but Cold Mission is masterful in the way it takes the listener through various different moods and characters with a distinct sound holding everything together. The ambient elements never overwhelm the sound of a city but work as a necessary break from the beat-driven productions elsewhere on the album.
The highlight of this being the Mumdance collaborative, Wut It Do. As if, bringing the spacey exploits back to earth, the amen- breaks and stuttering vocal sample is the culmination of the development of the stark contrasts that appear throughout the album.
Cold Mission in its entirety is an album born out of grime’s origins but quite clearly on it way to a new world. Its Sci-fi tinged textures and scattered rhythms bring two worlds together that I would never have imagined would work so well.