Darkness – Archive 002
I’ve long been a fan of Darkness’ music. His “Emails EP” and the single ‘Question That‘ were released in 2017 and 2016 respectively, and they still bang today. February marks the release of “Archive 002”, the second edition of the compilation series he started back in 2020. While the last record was long, sprawling and featured tracks with varying grime and bass styles – this record is a bit more focused – as heavy basslines are the predominant feature of “Archive 002”. From a home-listening context, it makes sense. Six tracks are more digestible than twenty-four, and the tape benefits from the more focused sound. Stand out tracks go to ‘Keep It Steppin’ and ‘Hell Is Cold’. The former is a tearout bass stepper, while the latter uses distorted bass in a much subtler way. Which leads me to ask the question: why hasn’t a grime label packaged some of Darkness’ tracks and given them a vinyl release?
Nothingnice & Hayz – Hawkeye EP (Ft. Riko Dan & Logan)
“Hawkeye EP” marks the beginning of tenth-anniversary celebrations for Bristol label Durkle Disco, tapping Nothingnice, Hayz, DJ Polo, Riko Dan and Logan for the EP. Riko’s biting flows over foreboding bass lines make ‘Hawkeye’ the standout track, but I have to mention the remix, where DJ Polo gives the tune a whole new context with heavy drum programming. ‘Shell Dem’ closes out the record. If you’ve heard previous Durkle releases, you’ll know that Logan excels on these hybrid instrumental styles. Two patois emcees spitting fire, percussion loaded with rhythm and a couple of dark instrumentals make “Hawkeye” a record with the key to my heart – so grab this one if like me, you love all of the above.
JT The Goon & Moscow Legend – Do Or Die EP
“Do Or Die” – the latest EP from JT The Goon & Moscow Legend – draws its power from the two elements it seeks to combine. There are some plush, gorgeous melodies on display here backed by a strong low-end, but they sit in perfect tandem, neither overpowering the other to create a harmonious mix. ‘Do Or Die’ is the standout thanks to the airy motif that first arrives in the track’s second verse, providing an alternative riff to the main melody. “Do Or Die” tries to balance melody with impact, and the two producers get it spot on.
Lewi B – From The Soul EP
I’ve written a lot about Lewi B on this blog, mainly praising his ability to put a fresh spin on familiar grime sounds with strong arrangement skills. This month he’s back with “From The Soul”, an eight-track EP, which showcases a new style he’s been working on recently. Squarewaves, manipulated vocal cuts, soft synths and drill rhythms make up the sound on “From The Soul”, which Lewi brings together to create a laid-back take on the usual grime format. Stand out track goes to ‘Symphony,’ which coats a sample in whooshing bass lines and subtle yet impactful percussion, ultimately creating a strong rhythm that gets the body moving. “From The Soul” is a strong entry to Lewi B’s back catalogue, as he successfully arranges the moving parts of the EP to create an engaging sound.
Boardgame James – Step Into My Office
Sino-grime is a vague sub-genre of grime in that producers often make it, but there isn’t a specific hub for the sound. Boardgame James’ latest EP – “Step Into My Office” – uses the style as a jump-off point. Rather than use the sino-grime tropes in an overt club music context, Boardgame James combines harps, echoed string runs and tranquil synths to create the sounds of “Step Into My Office.” It gives tracks like ‘Bird Cage, Bird Soup’ and ‘Incense Riddim’ a wandering quality, meditative grime music you can get lost to as the sounds unfurl from the headphones. When the EP does become club-focused with the Shaytaan featuring ‘Last Sunday Of The Year’, the tranquil feeling remains as glistening strings and subtle percussion dazzle from the headphones. I’ve written plenty about how grime is club music on the same level as house, techno and the like, but an EP such as “Step Into My Office” shows the fluidity of the grime template: when mixed with other influences, it can yield headphone music with plenty of immersion.
Klasey Jones & The Wildcatz – Operation Midnight EP
If you’ve been following the output from Plastician’s Terrorhythm label and the wave scene over the past few years, then you’ll know about Klasey Jones. On his latest record –”Operation Midnight” – a collaboration with The Wildcatz, sleek melodies, smooth basslines, pitched-down vocal cuts and instrument sampling all combine to create a sound that’s sometimes euphoric; other times wistful but above all, always banging. ‘Sudden Incursion’ stood out to me the most, a full-tilt grime banger loaded with a killer low end that zaps the brain in all the best ways. On its own, it sounds great, but I can’t help but think a few top-tier emcees trading bars over this would be a lot of fun to hear. Elsewhere, big basslines and subtle sax riffs give ‘Road To Bastion’ its powerful sound, while the second track ‘Mononoke’ is a dizzying head-rush. “Operation Midnight” is a well put together record with a slick sound and many layers. You’ll find yourself returning to said layers time and time again.
Ikonika – No Feelings Required
Ikonika’s latest record is an eight-track EP titled “No Feelings Required”, released on the last Bandcamp day. There are plenty of jagged lead lines, warped basses and iced-out melodies on the record, but it’s not all in your face, with the minimal approach giving the EP as a whole a kind of tense atmosphere. It reminds me of modern drill production, but with the type of tense atmosphere you’d hear on ambient records. ‘Texture Analyst’ is where the atmospheric feeling really shines through: utilising echoed samples, placid melody lines and a subtle but no less prominent bass line underneath it all. ‘Apply Fog’ continues on this tip, and EP opener ‘Remove Pain’ is probably the clearest club banger with a killer riff playing out over the low end.
Becky On The Beat – Black Girl Magic
Becky On The Beat’s music grabbed me in 2020, mainly down to her fresh ideas, good tunes and the attention to detail within her music. It’s the same for her latest release – “Black Girl Magic” – a six-track EP with five instrumentals and a vocal release. ‘Fly Out The Wizz 2’ is a psychedelic combo of grime and drill, as trippy synths and piano riffs combine with gliding basses. ‘Grill Pioneer’ mixes a smooth bass with choppy 8-bit synths, which creates a discordant clash, the two elements playing off each other for an intriguing lead line. The standout is undoubtedly ‘140 Baby Maker’, where rolling percussion, pitched-down vocals and a soft bass come together to nail the R&G style. Overall, it’s a strong EP crafted by a producer with good ideas and the talent to execute them well.
Jammz – Free Up The Riddims Volume 3
There are no frills or concepts on “Free Up The Riddims Volume 3”, and to be honest, the tape doesn’t need any. ‘Runnin Refix’, ‘Gas Mark 21’, ‘Format’, ‘NWO’ and ‘Termite’ are unadulterated grime, packed with clipped vocal cuts, skippy rhythms, dark basses and glitches that make the brain spin. Radio-ready instrumentals designed to get the speakers shaking, perfect on their own or as ammo for emcees to spit fire over.
Lolingo – Looney Tunes Riddim / Bill Gates
Lolingo is probably best known for his work with The Square, Elf Kid and Lyrical Strally, his latest release “Looney Tunes Riddim” coming courtesy of Coyote Records. The title track ‘Looney Tunes Riddim’ makes me smile because not only is it a banger, but you wouldn’t hear a refix of the Looney Tunes theme song in techno. Lolingo peppers the original theme with brisk claps, gunshots and sirens, a real banger for the clubs. ‘Bill Gates’ is the darker of the two, alternating between jumped up bass and head-bopping rhythms.
Kobe JT x GHSTLY XXVII – Doing It Major
You can never say no to good UK Garage. “Doing It Major” is the latest release from Kobe JT; there are heavy percussion, dark bass and screwface inducing melodies on the track, and GHSTLY XXVI provides a vocal in his trademark delivery.
Pavv – 4U EP
More UK Garage next, but Pavv’s “Rainbow Road” EP is on the euphoric side of the spectrum. Opening track 4U is made up of spritely percussion, tight rhythms and sub-bass, while the title track ‘Rainbow Road’ leads with gorgeous melodies. Two tunes you should definitely pick up.