A temporary home for monthly Mixmag Grime & Dubstep reviews while the magazine remains out of print — here are October’s picks.
Album of the Month: Inkke – ‘Below Freezing’ (FWDK Records)
From the archives
2. Like Silk
3. Shrimp Lover
Glasgow-based producer Inkke has quietly continued to release some of his career-best work over the last few years, following a series of records with Local Action and LuckyMe, as well as his ‘Faded With Da Kittens’ hip-hop tapes. He’s also launched a label, FWDK Records or fwdk, and has been releasing a steady flow of records and self-compiled zines throughout 2020, including ‘Below Freezing’ — a six-track EP / mini-album that spots how vivid and unique his sound remains. Traversing everything from grime to southern rap to the weightless tropes explored by Mumdance & Logos’ Different Circles label (Inkke released ‘Love Song’ through them in 2016), ‘Below Freezing’ is part Boxed-era grime refracted, part lush, wot-do-you-call it electronics, made at a series of different points over the last eight years. Opener ‘Shrimp Lover’ is skeletal and beat-less — a dizzying, square wave joust cut with frosty atmospherics — while brittle percussive loops and clanking hip-hop beats meet trance-y, euphoric bridges on ‘The Sisters’. There’s room for more pensive, hip-hop hybrids on the tracklist too (‘Atom Tan’), as well as the fractious ‘Like Silk’, which again — along with a slew of deft, water-y samples — zeroes back in on the square wave grime sounds Inkke’s long made his calling card. ‘Peekapop’ booms, think gun-toting rap beats upped to footwork tempo in places, before gorgeous, melody-soaked final cut ‘Blessed’ — originally released as a free download by LuckyMe in 2013 — signs off the collection. Proper. 8/10
Tune of the Month: Grandmixxer – ‘Ice Cold’ (Bandcamp)
Grandmixxer’s uncompromising, singular grime sound has formed the heartbeat of his SLSA (South London Space Agency) label and DJ persona over the last three years but on ‘Ice Cold’ — the latest in a series of instrumental drops via Bandcamp — he takes a brief excursion to cooler climes. Clocking in at over eight minutes long, it builds a la grand orchestra, with every piece joining at key sections; first, the strings, then barbed, contorted square wave bass and finally, a flurry of eski clicks and punches. It plays out like an epic, his own quiet masterpiece — and it deserves plenty of fanfare. 8/10
Commodo – ‘Stakeout’ EP (Black Acre)
Beat maker, storyteller, director?
’Stakeout’ follows Commodo’s ‘Loan Shark’ EP, released on Black Acre back in May, to land as part two of his latest epic, treading bold new ground as a producer. While his beats have always triggered shockwaves based on their sheer impact alone, these are two records that have felt entirely different — Commodo is now telling stories with his music. On ’Stakeout’, he continues to weave a tale that darts between freewheeling, crime-ridden hedonism and looming unease. The title-track for example, opens with crackles and shudders — it’s pensive, creaking and aloof — while the rugged, near metronomic percussion on ’Transit’ mirrors a tickling clock. Final track ‘Crooked Law’, with its bolshy, Batman-style lurch and filmic crackle, seems to suggest that in this instance, crime does pay. When’s the movie? 9/10
Slay ft. Trigga, Coco, Local & Snowy – ‘Dance Dun’ Remix (1Forty)
Leeds’ 1Forty label top another stellar year with a big-name remix of one of their defining tracks — ‘Dance Dun’, originally produced by Zed Bias. With the beat now flipped by Chimpo, Manchester’s Slay is again joined by fellow 0161 stalwart Trigga, as well as Sheffield’s Coco, Nottingham’s Snowy and Cardiff’s Local on a heavyweight new mix aimed at uniting every corner of the contemporary grime sound. In and amongst the rapid-fire verses and different accents, there’s a great track here, compounded by memorable, reload-friendly hooks — lets hope it can do over dances the way it deserves to in 2021. 8/10
Cluekid – ‘Electric Avenue / Horizontal’ (Infernal Sounds)
Cop on sight, thank us later
Infernal Sounds continue an impeccable recent run with more grade A damage from Cluekid, who returns to the label with for the first time since 2018’s ‘Mistik World’ EP. A-side ‘Electric Avenue’ is pure dynamite; warm, wobbly, full-blooded.There’s an understated charm about the sheer dubby-ness of it all and the way it meanders in-and-out of breakdowns, the way it scratches an itch for late ‘00s dubstep without ever sounding or feeling tired. On the flip, ‘Horizontal’ sings from the same hymn book, only with added wobble, this time blaring and totally front-and-centre, spiked by short, parade-like trumpet bursts in the background. Emphatically good. 9/10
East Man & Walton – ‘Screw Face / Don’t Speak’ (Hi-Tek Sounds)
Functional club weapons
Skeletal, hoods-up grime sketches from East Man and Walton, who collaborate for the second time here on Hi Tek Sounds. A-side ‘Screw Face’ is raw and rugged, the pair looping a grizzly 8-bar square-wave pattern without a single flash of synth or melody — it’ll make one hell of a DJ tool — while B-side ‘Don’t Speak’ draws for the hydraulics. Fuller and a lot darker in composition, the track’s wheezing, industrial rhythm and oddball clatter is palpably heady — and the sub doesn’t half pack a punch either. 7/10
Bayalien Sound System – ‘Smokestacks’ EP (We Got This)
More than we bargained for!
More surprise, experimental gold from Bayalien Sound System, this time courtesy of stateside label, We Got This. The oddball lunch and crunching beats of opener ‘Smokestacks’ — pinned together by hazy vocal interludes — are a curveball entry point and a million miles from previous EPs, while the contorted, off-kilter whirl of ‘SHAKE’ is also a mind-boggler. Final jam ‘Beautiful Basslines’ is the wildest of the lot, manically flitting between tempos, rhythms and off-piste FX palettes at what feels like light speed. Does it work? Somehow! 7/10
Repulsion – ‘Uh Oh’ EP (Next Level Dubstep)
Not for the faint hearted
Rip-roaring, mechanised club ammo from Oklahoma City’s Repulsion, who returns to Next Level with some of the gnarliest dubstep we’ve heard in a minute. Opener ‘What It Is’ forms a face-melting introduction to the Repulsion armoury, lasting barely 40 seconds before exploding into life like a box of fireworks, while the EP’s title-track melds together warp-speed hydraulics with relentless, rolling bass pressure and drums that seem to nod, in places, toward UK funky. Final jam ‘You Failed’ returns to type, seeing out the EP with more steely, grinding pressure, only this time deeper, darker and meaner. 6/10
Slowie – ‘Warmonger’ (Dee Oh 7)
Bristol, stand up!
Bristol MC Slowie christens his new imprint, Dee Oh 7, with ‘Warmonger’ — a barnstorming new single cut for the rave. Produced by Mr Skandal & Ambler Productions, his flow is breathless from the off, his bars full of character — listen out for a nod to ‘crates of cider’ — and his mic-style long-honed in the clubs of his home city. It’s the first of many new releases planned on Dee Oh 7, including a full-length Slowie album in 2021. Watch this space! 7/10
Shaytaan – ‘Spirit Loops Vol. 1’ (1000Doors)
1000Doors show no sign of slowing down in 2020, despite only launching back in April. They’ve released five records since, including standout EPs from Handsome Boys and Kamran (fka Moleskin), with Shaytaan’s ‘Spirt Loops Vol. 1’ the next in line to take a chisel to instrumental grime. Reimagining and repositioning OG grime sounds and patterns within the dream-sequence context of old RPG soundtracks and video game aesthetics, ‘Spirit Loops Vol. 1’ is a total rush from start to finish. Opener ‘Twin Wield Dual Style’ sounds like a grimy — cutthroat claps and all — ode to the Sonic loading screen on Megadrive, while the jittery percussion and saccharine-fuelled buzz of ’Savannah Plains’ is pinball genius. Third track ‘Magma Hills’ is a delight too, particularly the melodies — they sound like they’ve been lifted from a 90s anime cut-scene — while the dwindling, square wave shuffle, mournful strings and far-off pans of final cut ‘Debug BGM’ form a fitting, thoughtful closer. Don’t sleep! 9/10
White Peach celebrate a landmark 50 records next month, with label head and owner Zha debuting on the label for the first time ever (!) … his four-track ‘Snails’ EP crowns another standout year for White Peach — which also functions as a cutting house and distribution service — with records from Mr.K, Phossa, Opus and Rygby feeding into one of the UK’s richest new-school discographies … look out for a limited, white-label press from Bengal Sound & Jook, which features two sought after weapons (‘Bandit’ / DKWTTY’) — be quick before they’re all gone! … Brighton’s Southpoint label also released volume 5 of their ‘Integrate’ compilation series, detailing fresh new tracks from city up-and-comers like Cortese and El Laurie … and looking ahead, keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for killer records from Kercha (DNO Records), Radikal Guru (Moonshine Recordings) and Ziek (Silent Motion) over the next few weeks.