— GRIME & DUBSTEP MONTHLY ™ —

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

(K9 by Graeme Day)

Album of the Month: K9 – ‘Cut’ (Bandcamp)

Living on record

Highlights

1. ‘Tool Time’

2. ‘Eternal Sin’

3. ‘Victory Lap’ ft. Rolla, Sgt Stats, Swarvo, Lynxman, Nasty Jack, Direman, Razor, Patman, One Fourz & Snowy Danger

K9 has long-been one of grime’s most powerful and emotive spitters and latest tape, ‘Cut’ — a hyper-personal 9-track collection featuring everyone from Direman to SBK — crystallises that reputation fully. Always adept at turning his flow to the beats of outfitters like Mssingno, Visionist and Evian Christ, all of whom lend production credits here, as well as Silk Road Assassins (‘Taste Of Metal’), K9’s output also feels like a far cry from any paint-by-numbers formula too. Right from the piercing early bars of ‘Dishonour’ ft. Direman, K9 lays himself bare, picking instrumentals that elevate, rather than overbear, the pain and anguish he channels in his lyricism. The syrupy pop of ‘Stevie G’ — an ode to Liverpool FC’s legendary former captain – complete with auto-tuned hooks, is a lighter moment, but tracks like ‘Eternal Sin’ and standout cut, ‘Ice Climbers’ ft. Frostar, Wiley & Direman’, capture the darker mood that permeates the rest of the tracklist. ‘Never Been That’ featuring new school champ, SBK, is also a standout, as is the swarming, apocalyptic ’Tool Time’ — a track produced by Evian Christ — and final jam, ‘Victory Lap’, which lands as a multi-MC rally over DJ Oddz classic, ‘Champion (Remix)’. ’Cut’ isn’t always an easy listen, but it delivers completely unapologetically, in ways few other grime tapes of its kind do. 8/10

(Jammz by Ben Walsh)

Tune of the Month: Jammz x Jon Phonics – ‘Man Of The Match’ (Astral Black)

Emphatic!

Straight up, no frills grime from two artists who continue breathe new life into the sound; Jammz via his I Am Grime label and exploits on the theatre circuit with ‘Poet In Da Corner’, and Jon Phonics through experimental electronics and his ahead-of-the-curve Astral Black label. ‘Man Of The Match’ sees the two pull no punches on an in-your-face grime single that toes the line between fun and menace. While the artwork may feature a photo of Thierry Henry knee-sliding circa ’03-04, Jammz isn’t here for nostalgia, his breathless flow tearing away at Phonics’ sharp, scuttling instrumental right from the off — an emphatic reminder that he remains one of grime’s fiercest and most naturally gifted spitters. A proper heavyweight duo, like Keane and Vieira! 8/10

Novelist – ‘Quantum Leap’ (MMM YEH Records)

In his own lane

From 2014’s ‘Take Time’ with Mumdance to his Ruff Sound project and ‘Lewisham McDeez’ with The Square, Novelist has always done music his own way. New six-track EP, ‘Quantum Leap’, is no different, a record steeped in ‘80s synth music nostalgia and another nod to his diverse tastes, many of which lay way outside the more traditional grime canon. Introduced by a minute-long, prophetic spoken word monologue, ‘Quantum Leap’ begins in earnest with the swirling, neon-tinted tones of ‘Freedom’, with each track bleeding into the next like a synth patchwork. Far from the accelerated grime of previous production EPs, tracks like ‘Luxury Life’ and ‘We Are One’ — the latter of which functions around a chugging house groove — see Novelist flexing in ambitious new spaces. Moodier final tracks ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘Billionaire Boys’ may allude to grittier, more familiar palettes, but this is a record that reaffirms Novelist’s trailblazing approach to his art. Salute! 8/10

Kid D – ‘Spiritual Art’ EP (2 Easy Records)

One of 2020’s big winners

More stone cold goodness from the legendary Kid D, a producer who’s enjoyed a prolific 2020 and is now in the process of putting finishing touches to a new album, due early 2021. Less of a primer and more of a showreel, ‘Spiritual Art’ spotlights the ethereal charm of Kid D’s recent grime productions, striking a balance between light and dark, rough and smooth. Opener ‘Super Natural’ is a testament to that vision, melding together bright, glistening synth layers and chiptune vocal FX with crunching beats, while ‘Blessings’ — again deft and bright — fizzes and sparkles. ‘Godly’ signals a slight change of pace, albeit still playing off lighter textures against harder, grittier bass sounds, with fourth track ‘Breath’ treading a similar path. The big, booming 808 lean of ‘Spirits’ is an EP standout, before bleepy, star-gazing final cut, ‘My Energy’, draws another stellar Kid D record to a close. 8/10

Gesher – ‘Holding One’ EP (I Am Grime)

Don’t sleep!

Rising producer Gesher has enjoyed a quicktime ascent in recent years after impressing in influential grime beat-making competition, Beat Boss, back in 2019. He debuts for Jammz & Jack Dat’s I Am Grime label with ‘Holding One’ — a five-track mini opus that also features one of the grime records of 2020 in ‘Change’ ft. Mayhem NODB, co-produced alongside Jammz. Gesher’s signature sound is skippy and playful, as evidenced by the bubbling, infectious 8-bar rhythms and sharp strings of first track ‘Gold Bullet Skank’, while the warped, de-tuned basslines and jazzy, sunset synths of the title cut are a revelation. Fourth track ‘Trap Ish’ does exactly what it says on the tin — think big, swollen 808 stabs and gothic, choral flashes — before the devilish OG grime of 8-bar monster ‘Darth Maul’ closes. A big statement. 8/10

Zha – ‘Snails’ EP (White Peach)

A fitting way to celebrate a landmark 

Toasting a landmark 50 releases on White Peach, label head Zha debuts on the label proper with new four-track stormer, ‘Snails’, following a series of releases on sub-label, Naan, over the last three years. Spatial and heavy on fuzzy low-end, each track represents an excursion from the soundscape inspired beats of previous records, trading delicate, faraway melodies for rough, abrasive percussion and cranking pressure. Rasping opener ‘Snails’ is a case in point, while the jittery, cut-and-paste sampling and filmic crackle of ‘Daisy’ is intriguing and fun. Bolshy, low-end rumbles and snarling patterns underpin third track, ‘Shattred’, which sees the EP take an ominous turn, before the rolling, industrial dread and blaring FX of ‘Tunnels’ sign off. Killer! 8/10

Lington – ‘Capsule’ (Bandcamp)

Finding his range

A vastly underrated grime technician for a number of years now, Lington’s ‘Capsule’ — an eight track, conceptual mini-album of sorts — represents his most accomplished work yet. From the winding snare rolls and luscious, hi-def melodies of opener ‘Orange Opal’ to the demonic, hoods-up growl of ‘Intercom’, this is the sound of a producer embracing his range. Moving through the gears as the tracklist unfolds, there’s also room for gloomy, grey skies (‘Evasion’), trappy, low-end rollers (‘Dmonz’) and ruff-and-ready gqom-inspired breaks (‘Antagonize’), before the subtle, melodic shimmer and ominous boom of final cut, ‘Gelato Sorbet’, winds things down. 8/10

Yamaneko – ‘Kaizo Nandaru’ EP (1000Doors)

Pure genius

Yamaneko has never made conventional grime by any stretch of the imagination, but his fleeting references form key building blocks of the worlds he builds within his music. Now based in Tokyo, he debuts for 1000Doors with ‘Kaizo Nanadaru’ — a stunning, seven-track record inspired by ‘illegal and fan-made art’, from modded video games to graffiti. Gorgeous opener ‘Chūnibyō’ listens like a Ghibli-esque lullaby, while the intricate, locked grooves and pulsing, automated Galactica of ‘Infinite Waveshine’ zeroes back in on the sounds first explored on acclaimed debut album, ‘Pixel Wave Embrace’. The sugary, lo-slung rush of ‘Nabana no Sato’ is a genuine joy too, as is the dizzying energy of frenetic Megadrive throwback, ‘Shimokitazawa Autoscroller’, both a marked contrast to the grimy, 8-bar snap of tracks like ‘Drewell’ and EP standout ‘Ultra Star’. The EP closes out with the intense and beautiful ‘If You Keep Asking Me I’ll Melt Away In The Summer Air’, a quiet nod to the ambient landscapes Yamaneko has also made his own over the last five years. A highly technical, emotional, wondrous record by one of electronic music’s most original minds. 9/10

Panix – ‘Panix EP’ (Substantial Audio)

Classic dubstep flavours

Statement dubstep heaters from DMW Sound’s Panix, who debuts for Substantial Audio with a self-titled four track EP here. Steely, dubwise opener ‘Regal’ forms a fitting entry point to a record rooted in OG sounds, with moody, hyper-wobbly second track ‘Ghoul’ befitting of some of the UK’s most memorable dubstep circa 2007-2010. The grinding, contorted rattle and scything pressure of ‘Hench’ is probably our tip, although the shadowy, reverb-heavy wobble of menacing final jam, ‘Wobble 96’, runs it pretty close. 7/10

Kercha – ‘Fulminating’ EP (DNO Records)

Quietly brilliant

Russian producer Kercha offers up plenty of surprises on new EP, ‘Fulminating’, a markedly distinguished four-track record out now on Brighton’s DNO Records. Pensive, thoughtful opener ‘Hold The Breath’ forms a welcome introduction to Kercha’s production world — a track that prods and hints at something more explosive without ever fully letting rip — while the bizarre FX, gloopy, yoyo like baselines and clunking, hydraulic breakdowns of ‘Jazz Symptoms’ are brilliantly perplexing. It’s a theme that underpins the rest of the record too, with the wild, cut-and-paste pinball of ‘Suggestion’ and yet more hyper-complex, oddball sampling and peculiar left turns on title-track ‘Fulminating’ keeping things interesting right to the final second. Absorbing! 9/10

Monitor

This month, look out for Grandmixxer’s rip-roaring ’South London Intergalactic’ mixtape via his SLSA label … and be sure to check THUGWIDOW & Bruised Skies’ superbly-titled ‘Requiem For A Sesh’ EP on Astral Black, a fascinating first collaboration between two producers with wildly contrasting visions … looking ahead, December is shaping up to be a defining month, with big releases forecast from Flava D (‘Berlin’ via Bandcamp), who is putting out her first grime record in over six years, Taiko (‘Oaken’ via White Peach), Commodo (‘Procession’ via Deep Medi) and JLSXND7RS, who has two new records on the way next month … EVA808 is also in line to drop her hotly-anticipated debut album, ’Sultry Venom’, on Innamind and bustling Brighton label Southpoint are back with the eighth volume of their multi-artist compilation series, ‘Southpoint Presents’, too!

(EVA808)

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