A new, temporary home for monthly Mixmag Grime & Dubstep reviews while the magazine remains out of print — here are April’s picks.
Album of the Month: ONHELL – ‘Grime Beats Vol.1’ (Deep Dark & Dangerous)
1. Athena’s Grime Beat
2. Tomatillo Heat
3. New Beat Who Dis
ONHELL has quietly gone about his business for Plastician’s Terrorhythm imprint and Deep, Dark & Dangerous over the last few years, but it was 2019’s ‘Graveyard Shift’ single with Trim – a track we reviewed as one of the best we’d heard in a long time — that palpably felt like a eureka moment. His follow-up (and debut beat tape / LP of sorts), ‘Grime Beats Vol.1’, continues this exploration of UK grime aesthetics through a US lens apace, pulling together a collection of heavyweight instrumentals full of devilish intent. From the evil, distorted square wave buzz of opener ‘21X Riddim’ right the way through to the thuggish, ice-cold glare of ‘Athena’s Grime Beat’ and the jittery, skeletal unease of ‘Wolf And The Cub’, the tracks deliberately bleed into each another, creating one looming, nightmarish canvas. The cinematic, star-lit screech of ‘New Beat Who Dis’ is perhaps the collection’s most emphatic, but every track on ‘Grime Beats Vol.1’ is heavy on menace. 8/10
Tune of the Month: Last Japan ft. Killa P – ‘Exhale’ (Escha Remix) [Circadian Rhythms]
Don’t forget to breathe!
Circadian Rhythms follow up 2019’s multi-artist ‘Partisan’ project with a quick-fire re-issue of Last Japan classic, ‘Exhale’ ft. Killa P. Re-booted by label affiliates Sully and Escha, it’s the latter’s explosive remix that gets our nod, twisting the original inside out and back again; Killa’s vocals are pitched up, the bass shredded – it absolutely crunches – and Last Japan’s original, freeze-dried melody finely re-tuned to dizzying effect. Although a CR crew member for a while, it also forms Escha’s first ever official release – not a bad start, eh? 8/10
Bayalien Sound System – ‘Tabs’ EP (Bayalien Sound System)
Beam me up, Scotty!
More space-age, mind-altering dubstep from the ever-reliable Bayalien Sound System Crew, who look to the stars more than ever before on new record, ‘Tabs’. The cosmic, bleepy, FX-heavy sound rolled-out on booming title-track ‘Tabs’ forms a primer for big and bashy, hyper-distorted wrecker ‘Hottest’ and the contorted, dizzying, ray-gun funk of ‘Pusher’ but things get wildest on super glitchy, sample-heavy wobbler, ‘Black Beans’. Jump in! 7/10
Creep Woland – ‘Chamberlain’ EP (Astral Black)
An ode to jungle
Scottish producer Creep Woland serves up four breaks-y rollers for Astral Black here, fresh off the back of their latest ‘Frass FM’ comp. The gloomy, meandering lean of opener ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a perfect intro to Woland’s music, easing listeners in with lighter, more delicate tones and textures, before explosive ripples go onto re-shape entire tracks. The deep, lo-slung bass tones of ‘Medieval Draw’ are beautifully warm and fuzzy, while ‘0800-Falkirk Triangle’ harks back to OG junglist rave aesthetics, again laced with more deft, blissful atmospheric touches. Hopeful final jam ‘Lord Chamberlain’ signs off in style with bright, shimmering layers, soft keys and more crunching breaks. 8/10
ALXZNDR – ‘Golden Gate’ EP (Scrub A Dub)
US producer ALXZNDR, already making waves in the clubs, debuts for Scrub A Dub with six new ones on the crisply-titled, ‘Golden Gate’ EP. Rooted in melody, the title-track opens with grand, paradisiacal strings, Murlo-esque patterns and cascading eski flutes, while the grinding pressure and long, dwindling pan-flute chimes of ‘Lei Shen’ are a gorgeous listen. The growling, skittish dubstep pressure of ‘A100’ is a slight excursion, albeit again tempered by the pan-flutes, while the ceremonial trumpets and colourful steel pans of ‘Johari Bazaar’ are joyous. Final tracks ‘M_C_W’ – complete with classic 80s electric guitar riffs – and the playful, jazzy romance of ‘Red Raider’ are equally as good fun. Surprise record of the year so far? Quite probably. 9/10
B:Thorough x JT The Goon – ‘Calm Levz’ (Textured)
Straight up incredible!
B:Thorough christens his new Textured imprint by linking up with one of grime’s elder statesmen – and most underrated beat-makers – JT The Goon on the hugely impressive, ‘Calm Levz’. Across five tracks, bookended by idyllic ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’ mixes of the euphoric ‘Night Wave’, the pair reference both classic and new-gen grime sounds and ideas. Second track ‘Floaty’ melds together ominous stabs and gremlin-style tones, tempered by deft melody flashes and trademark JT string work, while the sugary, accelerated rush and low-end boom of ‘Grimey Sat’ is a genuine ‘wow’ moment on the record. The title-track – again widescreen, melody-rich and hi-def – finds the two in reflective, thoughtful mood before the ‘Sunset’ mix of ‘Night Wave’, a moody, hoods-up square wave joust, draws a remarkable debut EP to a close. 9/10
Taiko – ‘Giant Big Man’ EP (Infernal Sounds)
God-tier link up
As if the levels needed raising, Taiko links up with Infernal Sounds – consistently one of the UK’s best dubstep hubs – on a monstrous new record. Title jam ‘Giant Big Man’ jumps in at the deep end, as a playful, near-hypnotic lead melody line and filmic crackle meet signature thumping bass pressure from the off, while the eerie, whirring menace of sketchy B-side cut ‘Slingshot Dub’ – albeit offset by delicate key melodies in part – is harsher, grittier club ammo. The booming, chest-beating march of rugged final joint ‘Pen To Paper’ might just land as our favourite of the lot though. 9/10
Truant – ‘Clifton / Bushkin’ (Juan Forté)
Another all killer, no filler plate from the Juan Forté crew, this time courtesy of elusive producer, Truant. A-side ‘Clifton’ is an absolute wobbler – think thick-cut, whirring bass weight with enough in the tank to worry the biggest stacks and an icy reverb-heavy melody – while on the flip, ruff-and-tuff roller ‘Bushkin’, goes hard in the paint again, this time with a warping, gloopy bassline and a slew of Bushkin (of Heartless Crew fame) vocal samples. Proper! 7/10
Surge – ‘Ebb & Flow’ EP (Wheel & Deal Records)
Huge club weapons
Surge is back on Wheel & Deal with five blistering new tracks on new EP, ‘Ebb & Flow’. The sinister, skeletal pull of the title-track opens with fiery purpose, before the greazy, guttural, low-end rumble of second track ‘Barren’ is positively ghoulish. This same theme continues apace via the eerie, electrified barbs of ‘Shellshock’ and shuddering power of bouncy, throwback jam ‘Original’, but Surge saves the best ‘til last on crunching, pensive final track ‘Holocron’ – just listen to those strings! 7/10
Dunman – ‘Isolation’ EP (In:Flux Audio)
Big, bold and unapologetic
Dunman goes in on new EP, ‘Isolation’, his first for In:Flux Audio and latest in a series of releases that have seem him straddle both grime and dubstep worlds. The huge, clattering pressure and hollowed-out wobble of opener ‘Isolation’ is no frills but effective in the dance, while the razor claps and jittery, fractious energy of grime bulldozer ‘Master Of Claws’ nod to a producer intent on making an impact. Third track ‘Originals’ tones down the mania (and the tempo), this time re-focusing on a deeper, OG steppa sound, before joining forces with newcomer Panix on another moody, hoods-up wobbler (‘Hail’). If that wasn’t enough bang for your buck, there’s a syrupy, hyper-distilled, percussive re-work of the title-track by J.Kong thrown in too. 6/10
Fresh from dropping a EP from Handsome Boys (Moleskin & Boardgame James), new grime label 1000Doors are back with the release of Yamaneko collaborator Rimplton’s mind-bending debut record, ‘Low Oxy’ — if you don’t know, get to know (!) … Sukh Knight continued a rich run of form with the release of big and bashy new dub, ‘Hooligan’, on his DAKU imprint … emerging Leeds-based grime/club label 1Forty dropped another essential record early in March — 1FGRM005 features weighty vocal tracks from YGG and Logan, as well as smoked-out instrumentals from Hamdi and ManGo … Dream Eater continue to harness the rarest and best choice cuts going, with a hot and heavy new plate on the way from Ironsoul — keep your eyes peeled … and look out for a new album from grime vet Footsie in May — ‘No Favours’ features a slew of guest MCs across 14 tracks on what is shaping up to be one of the best grime albums of 2020!