— GRIME & DUBSTEP MONTHLY ™ —

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

(Jon Phonics)

Album of the Month: Jon Phonics – ‘Players Go Places’ (Astral Black)

Grab your silk robe

Highlights 

1. P.B.E

2. Blue Note

3. Lord Of The Town ft. Nasty Nigel

As label head of Astral Black, Jon Phonics has helped one of the UK’s chief, ahead-of-the-curve labels — see records by Inkke, DJ Milktray, Xao, Creep Woland and more — but his own productions and handle on aesthetics shouldn’t be overlooked either. ‘Players Go Places’, a fun, clever 14-track collection of lo-fi tracks that functions more as a mixtape, is his first since 2018’s ‘Beats To Talk Crud To’ and although again loosely anchored in rap, lends itself more to doe-eyed nostalgia. While the majority of the tracks come in at less than three minutes long, offering up quick-fire snapshots of old rap classics re-tooled (‘Naughdee’) or slinky RnB joints given glitzy, 80s-style makeovers (‘Val Kilmer (Maverick)’, notable features from the likes of Brooklyn rapper Nasty Nigel and Piff Gang’s Phaze What are also talking points. Forming a natural extension of his production work for UK spitters like Manga St Hilare and Jam Baxter, their appearances bolster a tracklist that again proves why Phonics — although inspired by records of the past — remains one step ahead. 8/10

(Rakjay)

Tune of the Month: Rakjay & Logan – ‘Know Mi’ (Crucial Recordings)

New tag-team champs?

First spotlighted last month, Rakjay & Logan’s ‘Know Mi’ might just be one of 2020’s biggest surprise packages. Out now on Crucial Recordings as part of a deadly two-track plate, it pairs coarse, devilish tones, rasping square waves and thunderous, pulsing bass zaps with Logan’s fevered, spoken-word delivery. A fine-tuned lesson in tension and unease, it’s a record that deserves to be given the chance to spin clubs upside down but even at home, ‘Know Mi’ cuts through in a way many don’t. Buckle up! 9/10

Drax – ‘Second Thoughts’ EP (Southpoint)

A promising talent 

Drax, a much-fancied new-school grime producer based in Brighton, turns in a third, extended EP for Southpoint here — the label he’s been releasing with since 2015. Comprised of five tracks, it weaves its way through myriad influences and reference points, from the rolling, aqua-bleeps and whirring sub of widescreen opener ’Seton Sands’ through to the dancing, fluroescent East Asian melodies of the title-track. There’s room for more melodic experiments on more conventional grime slammers ‘Blade Works’ and ‘Frostier’, before final cut ’Tocsin’ — a deft, dreamy patchwork — shows off a lighter, more delicate side to Drax’s remit. 7/10

SPEKT1 & MVTTEO – ‘Unspoken Mirrors’ EP (We Got This)

Brilliantly bizarre

‘Unspoken Mirrors’ forms the first collaborative project between SPEKT1 & MVTTEO, who offer up some fascinatingly weird and wonderful flavours across three new original tracks. Opener ‘The Other Side’ is a sample-heavy odyssey littered with FX — from ticking clocks to an ocean of slapstick percussive zaps and crackles — that borders on the absurd in the best way possible, while ‘False Prophets’ is again heavy on percussion, albeit this time glued together by a dreamy, xylophonic melody. Final track ‘Persuede’ is perhaps the most experimental of the three, shifting through tempo, rhythm and tone at will to land as a breathless, dizzying bookend to a quite remarkable EP. 8/10

B:Thorough – ‘Angels’ EP (Textured)

B:Smart and cop (!)

B:Thorough follows the impressive ‘Calm Levz’ — a collaborative EP with JT The Goon that christened his fledgling Textured imprint back in May — with another standout record in ‘Angels’. Opener ’Together’ is typically melody-rich and big on impact, bridging the gap between the emotional, hi-def pull of wave music and the pure, rattling menace of grime. The sugary, chiptune shrill of second track ‘Even Angels Cry’ follows before RnG flavours come into view on the gorgeous, pseudo-romance of ‘Angels In Disguise’, which is also backed up by a woozy, dancehall mix from Chow Down’s Fallow. Hyper-lush closer ’Being Around You’ — originally started as part of a beat-making challenge on Reprezent Radio earlier this year — is the EP highlight, and comes complete with a hi-drama B:Thorough Devils Mix version for good measure. Don’t sleep on B:Thorough, he gets better with every record. 9/10

Opus – ‘This Damn Feeling’ (White Peach)

Atmospheric wizardry

Opus returns to White Peach for a third outing on the prolific UK label for the first time since 2018’s ‘Methodist’. New 12” ‘This Damn Feeling’ details four new tracks, including the mournful, rain-soaked intro to the crunching title-track. A master of building suspense and atmosphere in his music, second track ‘Day & Age’ follows a similar formula, only this time more layered and complex. A beatless intro runs for over a minute and a half, before anxious, glacial melody patterns are disrupted by heavy, low-end stabs and grinding, percussive clatter. Third track ‘Ghost’ takes things even deeper and darker, albeit spiked with intense, tear-jerking violin strings and eerie vocal samples, before ‘Renegade’ — a bonkers, cut-and-paste jam traversing tear-out dubstep flavours and even hip-hop as it closes out — signs off. Proper. 8/10

Rude Kid x Sir Spyro – ‘Rude Sounds’ EP (Rude Sounds)

Two titans unite

Rude Kid and Sir Spyro have long been considered go-to names for the majority of grime’s top tier — Spyro is currently one of Stormzy’s producers of choice — but ‘Rude Sounds’ sees the pair collaborate on a full EP for the first time. While some of the beats on show are clearly destined for the vocal booth, ‘Rude Sounds’ spotlights the sort of production value that have made both of them so revered. Across six new originals, every bar is impactful; the moody, sonic boom of opener ‘Win The Ting’, the buttery-smooth harp melodies that sit atop crunching beats below on ‘Press Ups’, the grandiose, nerve-shredding orchestral strings on ‘Sekky’ — all of it hits front and centre. The title-track too — another heavy-set, booming grime instrumental, this time punctuated by deft sci-fi flashes — is just as powerful, while the two share an instrumental apiece to close out. Sir Spyro goes fast and furious on the transfixing, winding menace of ‘Windy’, before Rude Kid closes out with dark and ominous trap burner, ‘Chase It’. 8/10

Dunman  – ’99 Basslines’ (Simply Deep)

A grimy odyssey

Bournemouth-based producer Dunman forms a welcome addition to the Simply Deep family, with new EP ’99 Basslines’ joining the dots between the grime and dubstep sounds that inspired his own. The title-track is full-on menace — a snarling, gutter-dwelling grime instrumental elevated by oscillating basslines and gremlin-like, contorted FX — while the melody-rich, star-gazing dub sounds of ‘R2D2’ are an exercise in spatial bass weight. There’s also space for lighter, breezier tones on the fluttery zip of ‘Suede Shoes’, before bruising, upfront grime tracks like ‘War Fi Dem’ and ‘Mad’ featuring gifted spitters Deeks & Rame bring the EP full circle. The metallic, jazzy shimmer and sugary RnG tones of ‘Pistol Nights’ seem like an odd closer, but there’s also just enough room for a skippy, up-tempo ‘99 Basslines’ refix by Kage (FKA Defiant) too. 7/10

Various – ‘Connect’ EP (Wheel & Deal Records)

Things are better connected

Trading stems and studio space with a trio of producers, N-Type’s V/A ’Connect’ EP functions solely around the art of collaboration. He joins forces with OG dubstep producer The Others for the first time since 2009 on the lurching, skeletal dread and rumbling pressure of ‘Horror’, before locking horns with Denver-based label newcomer Sleeper on the scurrying, oddball flavours of dynamite club wrecker, ‘E20’. Final track ‘The Plug’ — a swrling, scything link-up with fellow vet Lost — is perhaps the best (and heaviest) of the lot. 7/10

JEB1 – ‘Guyana’ (Hi Tek Sounds)

Classic grime sounds re-moulded

JEB1 has long been affiliated with Grandmixxer and his SLSA camp, as well as burgeoning young label, Kenyon Sound, but here he steps out on East Man’s Hi Tek Sounds for the first time. ‘Guyana’ — defined by its looping 8-bar grime patterns, lush, winding melody lines and muffled choral arrangements— forms a proud nod to his Guyanese ancestry. On the flip meanwhile, East Man distills and deconstructs, re-moulding the original mix into a rhythmic, percussion-based DJ tool of his own. 7/10

Monitor

This month, Butterz are back (!) to celebrate their 10 year anniversary … They’ve pressed ‘War Wid’ — a special Newham Generals 12”, detailing four OG classics (including ‘Frontline’) in commemoration, landing as their first official release in over three years … Look out for new Jakebob single, ‘Punch’, which was produced by Jack Dat and continues a rich run of releases that are starting to pique the interest of some of the scene’s biggest names (JME tweeted about him earlier this month) … Sukh Knight also continues to churn out genre-blurring grime/dubstep hybrids at a rate of knots, this time collaborating with PAV4N on the monstrously enchanting ‘2020 FE DEAD’ … Leeds’ 1Forty label continue another strong year apace with the released of their ‘1Forty Remixers’ EP, which sees some of the label’s biggest cuts to date reimagined in-house by various members of the camp including 9TRANE, Deadbeat and Killjoy… J. Sparrow’s Navy Cut are at it again too, this time shining a spotlight on much sought-after, Manchester-based producer Maes — seek out his new 12” and cop on sight … and looking ahead, expect big records from the Subatlern and Off-Switch Audio camps in October. 

(Jakebob)

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