Cover Art by Max Eru
Owlybeats – Nocturnal
Owlybeats makes grime music designed to detonate speakers. His debut album – titled “Nocturnal” – is a lean collection of dark melodies, huge bass drops and bruising percussion over eleven tracks, two of which are instrumental and the rest featuring an array of emcees. Standout track ‘Fuego’ is packed with an army of claps and an ear-worm melody, topped off with a catchy vocal from Razor. Elsewhere, nimble bass lines and bars from Narxxy and Rawza make ‘Ultra’ a track to remember, while the title track ‘Nocturnal’ is a four-strong emcee rally about the night-time artistic process. Vocal grime hasn’t been at its best so far compared to 2020, and with “Nocturnal”, Owlybeats has turned in an album of high-quality emcee led grime. He’s a producer first and foremost, so it’s clear that he aimed to create an engaging record. But as well as being a banging album, I feel as though “Nocturnal” provides a good snapshot of the best underground grime emcees going at it over some high-quality beats.
Jakebob – In Formation
The latest release from Leominster based emcee and producer Jakebob is the twelve track album “In Formation”. While the dubwise sounds of the title track ‘In Formation’ and the drill sounds of ‘Black + White’ bookend the album, the rest of the record is a collection of lean and stripped-back grime instrumentals, deploying several recognisable grime tropes, and most importantly doing them well. There’s the glimmering R&G of ‘One Love’, biting synths of ‘Strawberry Cough’; mellow vibe of ‘False Searching’ and the dub influence of previously mentioned ‘In Formation’ that stand out here. Overall, “In Formation” feels like perfect ammo for emcees and DJs looking for fresh material for sets and singles; but I think the strong melody lines, arrangement and general quality of these tracks make them great for home listening too.
JT The Goon – Drifting Away
JT The Goon has been on an inspired run as of late, dropping heat every month this year since February. His latest is “Drifting Away”, a four-track EP, which includes stirring melodies, cutting bass lines and a sense of the extraordinary running through each of the tracks. My standout is ‘Fired Up’, which trades the usual JT sound for a truck-load of bass, with tight percussion and subtle triplet patterns filling the open space. It’s the type of track designed to affect the senses, especially in a dark club space with huge speakers. Overall, “Drifting Away” is as welcome as any of JT’s other monthly releases, as it’s interesting to see him refine a sound he’s continued to build throughout the years.
A.G – donotdisturb
Grime heads will know of A.G thanks to her great selections and presenting ability, but recently she’s started releasing more of her original productions. Over the past few months, those productions have used drill rhythms, UKG tropes, pitched vocals and the odd grime bassline, creating a sound that’s hers rather than shooting for any one genre. “donotdisturb” follows in this vein. ‘do little’ features bouncy percussion, dreamy melodies and a continuous vocal sample; while ‘always, you’ plays off drill percussion with an airy lead line. Closing track ‘attention seeker’ has lean percussion and dark sonics, and the space between those elements feel perfect for an emcee to ride over. Overall, “donotdisturb” is a strong release, and it will be interesting to see the direction that A.G takes her productions in the future.
Hamdi – Brazil, Pt. 2
The latest release from Brighton producer Hamdi is “Brazil, Pt. 2”. The follow-up to last years “Brazil” EP, the concept is pretty simple: samba and bossa nova samples reworked into grime and dubstep style tunes. The stand out here is clearly ‘E Menina’, as Hamdi speeds up the vocal sample, subtly layering his own bass and percussion lines around the vocal, which amplifies the euphoric nature of the original track while presenting it in a different context. ‘Palm Trees’ and ‘Bana’ use samples that are one part of the tune rather than the main feature, flipping them into a medley of deep bass and acute percussion. “Brazil, Pt. 2” could sound pastiche in the wrong hands, but Hamdi’s production skill means that the record is an engaging blend of dance music styles from across the world.
Ironsoul – The Lost Souls
“The Lost Souls” is a new self-released EP from Ironsoul, building on the ultra-melodic style that has become a trademark for him. The EP starts out pretty low key with ‘The Interlude’ and ‘Right Now’, two tracks characterised by rolling percussion and smooth bass lines. “The Lost Souls” really gets going with ‘Closer’, ‘Darkseid’ and ‘Paigonauts’, though. These tracks feature massive bass drops, twisted melodies and dreamy vocal samples, feeling big in scope and emotional in equal measure.