— GRIME & DUBSTEP MONTHLY ™ —

A temporary home for monthly Mixmag Grime & Dubstep reviews while the magazine remains out of print — here are May’s picks.

(Photo by Vicky Grout)

Album of the Month: Footsie – ‘No Favours’ (Studio 55)

A proper general

Highlights

1. Pattern & Program

2. Under Water ft. J Appiah

3. Pepper Stew ft. JME

Everyone wants Footsie to win. He’s one of grime’s best-loved MCs and an incredible beat-maker to boot and as one half of the Newham Generals alongside D Double E, has taken grime from East London to the world. But ‘No Favours’ is a separate story, its own entity, a record made for and entirely by himself, shining a light on the soundsystem culture that birthed him and the friends and collaborators who continue to inspire him; remarkably, it’s also his debut album proper. ‘Pepper Stew’ featuring JME, the album’s lead track is an immediate entry point, a track that fizzes with the sort of studio energy that typifies the vibrancy of ‘No Favours’, while the record’s tender moments (‘Under Water’, ‘Easy For You’, both featuring J Appiah) hum with the glow of live instrumentation, tempered by thoughtful, reflective lyricism. There are also standout features from the likes of CAS, P Money, Frisco, Jammer and iconic sparring partner D Double E, but the binding agent across all 14 tracks is Footsie. Finally, one of the UK’s true underground champions is having his moment. 8/10

Tune of the Month: Boardgame James – ‘Swamp Thing’ (1000Doors)

Emphatically beautiful 

Three records deep in a matter of months and 1000Doors have already made a sizeable imprint on contemporary instrumental grime, coming at it from myriad angles and announcing themselves with a steady flow of thoughtful releases. ‘Swamp Thing’, lifted from Boardgame James’ recent EP, ‘Daydream’, is arguably the best track they’ve put out yet, coming hot on the heels of debut EPs from both Handsome Boys and Yamaneko collaborator, Rimplton. It unfurls like Murlo classics of old, rich on strings but heavy on weight, and builds to a euphoric crescendo of choral chants and warm, hopeful, infectious sonics. It’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous record. 9/10

Lolingo – ‘Blueprint’ EP (No Hats No Hoods)

Fast out the blocks 

Lolingo is one of the new school’s most talented young grime producers and here he details another five, barnstorming grime instrumentals that feel tailor-made for MCs but equally at home on a system. The booming, screw-face lurch of ‘Blueprint’ is a great entry point, while fans of The Square will remember ‘Italian Job’ — a playful, chopped and screwed piano-grime-funk odyssey — from various archived radio sets. Third track ‘Ritual’ is far heavier on the low-end and altogether moodier in conception, sewn together by an eerie, spiralling vocal sample, while the zippy, anxious string-work and frenetic, arcade bounce of ‘Rude Flex’ and the distorted bass wobble and huge, scything claps of ‘Rushdown’ nod to a marked versatility that belies his years. 7/10

Commodo – ‘Loan Shark’ EP (Black Acre)

The best bar none

What else is there left to say about Commodo? He tends to leave listeners and contemporaries alike scratching their heads in bewilderment with every record and ‘Loan Shark’ — which listens like a jittery sunset car chase through Arizona — is no different. An ingenious sampler, he toys with sound, texture and bass weight like no other and through the sepia-toned glare, filmic crackle and playful, Dick Dastardly-esque menace of all three tracks (‘Loan Shark’, ‘Hot Pursuit’, ‘Contraband’), ‘Loan Shark’ lays down his most emphatic marker yet. Is there anyone making better dubstep? If so, I’ve not heard it. 9/10

Von D – ‘Obstacles’ EP (Artikal Music)

A top notch link-up

Bit of a late contender considering it was released at the back end of March, but Von D’s ‘Obstacles’ EP was too good not to cover this month. Across three tracks for Artikal — the iconic, tour de force dubstep label run by J:Kenzo and Mosaix — he explores the genre’s outer reaches to the fullest. The title-track listens like a grand, marching procession, cut with crunching, low-end analog pressure while the oddball, distorted bounce, scything bass and pensive strings of ‘Goat’ flip the record on its head. Our tip are the mysterious, fluttery samples and the gloomy unease of final cut ‘Whatevs’, but the whole thing smokes. 8/10

J-Shadow – ‘Modulator’ (Simply Deep)

Ingenious

Mutated club sounds from rising star J-Shadow on Simply Deep, with a trio of ‘Modulator’ remixes also thrown in for good measure. The title-track is an ingenious, crash-and-burn melee of twisted sampling, breaks-y rythms and contorted, gremlin-like sounds, while the shredded bass and hyper-intense bleep patterns of ‘Gene And Defect’ are properly mind-altering. The warmer, synth-pad tones of ‘Side-Step’ soon make way for frantic, twisted bass onslaughts too, while the razor claps and grand, shard-like synth pulses of final tracks ‘Inflation’ and ‘Glaciers’ nod to the work of producers like Logos and Mumdance. The record comes backed by three remixes (9TRANE, Jubley, Pro.Tone) of the title-track too, all of which are worth diving into. 8/10

DJ Squarewave – ‘Last Train’ EP (Vantage Records)

Huge dubstep pressure

Big, booming dubstep heaters courtesy of DJ Squarewave here, who also enlists LX One and Sukh Knight to up the ante. The squelching pressure of ‘Last Train’ hits from the off, but it’s the array of contorted, aqua-synth sounds and tense, icy melodies that give it a real future-facing, Blade Runner feel, before ‘Cali Cartel’’ — a monstrous collaboration with LX One — strips everything back. The bass lands with a palpable crunch and the sparse percussive clatter, huge kicks and oddball sampling takes a real left turn, before Sukh Knight brings things full circle with his swirling, purple-y blockbuster remix of the the title-track. 7/10

Alix Perez – Ravana EP (1985 Music)

Monstrous 

Alix Perez has enjoyed a renaissance writing at dubstep tempo over the last 12 months, which culminated in the release of 2019’s ‘Last Rites’ EP, widely regarded as one of his best records in a hot minute. ‘Ravana’, released in early April via his 1985 Music imprint, continues that theme apace and even features Headland on mean and menacing EP standout, ‘Ends’. Very much at the darker, grizzlier end of the dubstep spectrum, ‘Ravana’ kicks off with the piercing, dagger-like synth sounds and eternal gloom of the title-track, which bleeds ominously into the spiralling pressure and contorted bass wobble of ‘Lifeline’ and the de-tuned, hyper-distorted funk of ‘Post-Mortem’. Relishing operating within these confines, Perez shines brightest with Headland on the undeniable ‘Ends’, a dark, dizzying and surprisingly moreish club monster. Proper record, this. 9/10

Korin Complex – ‘Winding River’ EP (Mircale Drug Records)

Surprise tip!

Darting, minimalist club favours from US producer Korin Complex, who drops off five new tracks — including collaborations with Carter Wolfe, Duckem and Pugilist — on a markedly distinguished new 12”. Sparse but heavy on percussion, the title-track is nifty and clever, building rhythm and groove with subtle poise, before getting the big ’n bashy junglist remix treatment by Coco Bryce. The bleepy, acid-y flex of ‘Ponder’ with Carter Wolfe is a standout, as are the warming, fuzzy bass tones of the crackly ‘New Growth’ with Pugilist, but our tip is vinyl-exclusive jam ‘Periptero’ — a gorgeous, washed-out, ambient dreamscape. 7/10

Flowdan – ‘Welcome To London’ (J.Sparrow Remix) [Tru Thoughts]

Already a cult classic

If Flowdan’s ‘Welcome To London’, originally produced by Plastician and taken from 2019 album ‘Full Metal Jacket’, didn’t bang hard enough already, J. Sparrow has sent it stratospheric here. A cult remix  for a minute already now, Sparrow — a true bass architect and understated UK originator —goes on the charge from the off, upping the tempo and the dread-o-meter to devastating effect. A real, no frills club bruiser. 8/10

Monitor

This month, be sure to keep tabs on Skream’s roll-out of his ‘Unreleased Classics’ series, detailing a slew of lost and forgotten beats lifted straight from the vaults  … be sure to check back for Oliver Twist’s ‘Kick Punch’ EP on Kenyon Sound, which is well worth digging in to … as are weighty EPs by Chad Dubz (‘Original Dubplate’) and CITY1 (‘Kiswahli’) on New Moon Recordings and DNO Records respectively … Jammz did it again and Free(‘d) Up The Riddims for a second time — Volume 2 is out now via Bandcamp and a must for grime enthusiasts and beat connoisseurs alike … JT The Goon put out a surprise EP on Earthspin Recordings this month too — ‘Unknown Journey’ is out now to add to his discography of incredible, if understated, instrumental grime releases … and also be sure to dig into Sativa’s ‘Homegrown’ EP on Strictly 140 this month, it’s some of the moodiest new school grime ammo I’ve heard in a minute!

(Jammz)

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