— GRIME & DUBSTEP MONTHLY ™ —

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

(EVA808)

Album of the Month: EVA808 – ‘Sultry Venom’ (Innamind Recordings)

A legacy realised

Highlights

1. DEMANTAR

2. BROKEN NEON

3. GOLD TOOTHED TIGRESS

Icelandic producer EVA808 is a true technician and with it, one of dubstep’s most influential producers of the last five years, boasting co-signs from Hudson Mohawke to Ty Dolla $ign, Skrillex & Boyz Noise. Her music is cutting and intensely atmospheric and on debut album, ’Sultry Venom’, she shines bright across 19 tracks that flit between all-out cinema and blink-and-you’ve-missed-it beat sketches. The tracklist may seem bloated at first glance, but it unravels like a maze that you can’t help but get lost in, too. There’s room for garish menace (‘I Saw The Devil’), icy, moonlit synths (‘Broken Neon’), oddball, hyper-technical hip-hop musings (‘Lean Back’) and late-blooming trap beats (‘Heated Seats’), all of which bleed into one another, glued together by a shared sense of overarching darkness and pain. It’s a remarkable record and after a quartet of EPs for Innamind, not to mention standout records for both Crucial and White Peach, certainly represents EVA808’s most ambitious and personal outpouring yet. 9/10

(JLSXND7RS)

Tune of the Month: JLSXND7RS & Rocks Foe – ‘Warren & Justin’ (Dark Knight Records)

One of the best from two of the best 

JLSXND7RS and Rocks Foe have long been sparring partners — grime’s tour de force tag-team for those in the know — and on ‘Warren & Justin’, both take to the buttons on a much sought-after gem of an instrumental. Released as a two-track plate featuring a sweltering Boofy & Hi5Ghost remix on the reverse, it’s a dub that more than backs up the hype. Sprawling, Ghibli-esque melodies and mystical, delicate flashes form much of the track’s early blueprint, before brutish, snarling 808 kicks and a frantic strings onslaught flood it with the sort of OG grime energy that JLSXND7RS has made a calling-card. A clash of styles, expertly pulled off. 9/10

Flava D – ‘Berlin’ EP (Bandcamp)

Grime history brought back to life 

Flava D returns from the cold with ‘Berlin’ — a new record comprised of four of her most prized dubs, each with their own slice of grime history. Re-mixed and mastered for 2020, the 12” — strictly limited to 500 copies — features ‘Berlin’, iconic beat to D Double E’s 2015 ‘Berlin Freestyle’, as well as ‘War Dub’, which featured in a grime producer clash broadcast live on Rinse FM in 2013 alongside fellow producers including JME, Teddy, Rude Kid and Preditah. There’s also room for ‘Robot’, selected by Wiley for ‘Step 18’ of his Steps Freestyle series back in 2013 and ‘Plate’, one of her earliest and most requested grime beats. She may have spent the last few years spreading the UKG gospel as part of tqd and even dabbled with drum & bass of late, but Flava D remains one of grime’s most prolific architects. She’s promised there’s more to come, too! 8/10

Taiko – ‘Oaken’ (White Peach Records)

Ever reliable, ever superb

Taiko has been one of the UK’s most reliably excellent dubstep producers for years now and on ‘Oaken’, his latest for White Peach, he only reinforces that sentiment. The sumptuous, jazzy romance and classic dubwise flavours of opener ‘Oaken’ featuring Ed Hodge forms a gorgeous entry point to a record that sees him hit the sweet spot between rough and smooth this time out, too. ‘Lawless’ plays contorted pan flute melodies off against fraught and rasping beats, while the oddball FX and gloopy, whirring, low-end hum of ‘Spent’ represents its own point of intrigue. Final track ‘Where Ya From’ is the EP’s most emphatic, a fluttery, sickly-sweet instrumental that lands, in places, like vintage Murlo meets early 2010s era dubstep. 8/10

LX ONE – ‘Bloodshot / Seeking’ (Vantage Records)

Big and bad!

LX ONE crowns a vintage breakthrough year for his Vantage Records imprint with the label’s first slice of wax. A-side ‘Bloodshot’ details a heavyweight collaboration with Youngsta defined by playful, cosmic, ray-gun style pulses and a booming lean, while on the flip, the ominous, gloomy battle charge of ‘Seeking’ plunges the 12” into darkness and mystery. A-grade club ammo from a seasoned producer clearly enjoying a new lease of life. 8/10

Lolingo & Lyrical Strally – ‘Lolingo vs Lyrical Strally’ (Skeen Records)

Pure energy!

Producer extraordinaire Lolingo and YGG’s Lyrical Strally go head-to-head on a bullish EP bursting with attitude and charisma. The minute-long 16-bit ‘Intro’ is relentless from the off, with Strally’s flow sharing parallels with some of JME’s early freestyles, while second track ‘Batman’ sees him navigate a deft, spatial instrumental in breathless fashion. ‘Feline’ is lifted from a similar playbook, only Lolingo’s beat is harder and cut with powerful, rasping strings this time, before Strally really comes into his own on EP standout ‘Dashboard’ — a freestyle recorded in one, pulsating take. Final track ‘To-Do List’ details the skippiest beat of the entire EP, which gives Strally plenty of room to manoeuvre and mix up his flow. A great record from two seasoned young pros. 8/10

Drone – ‘Ghost Racer’ (Bandcamp)

Drone’s dark materials

Like Taiko, Drone has long been a consistent source of top-tier grime and dubstep material, recently developing his sound to feel bigger, louder and more industrial on records for V.I.V.E.K’s System label. On ‘Ghost Racer’, a grizzly six-track EP self-released on Bandcamp, he flexes similar muscles, ranging from the crunching distortion of the title-track to the scything, nightmarish pull of ‘Cursed’. The jittery unease and percussive death rattle of ‘Sinking’ adds to the sense of foreboding, before tracks like ‘Blueprint’ and ‘Feet In The Dirt’ down the tempo and up the hazy, filmic crackle instead. Our tip is the murky, guttural jaunt of final track, ‘Crayon’, which bookends a record forged in gloom. 8/10

Numan – ‘Replica’ EP (SPECIAL* REQUEST)

He’s back!

Numan first caught everyone’s attention in the early 2010s as a grime producer with plenty under the bonnet but away from music, has since turned his hand to making apparel, perfume and more. ‘Replica’ — a record written to capture the concept of a new fragrance — is his first in some time but details three new tracks full of energy and verve. Sparkling opener ‘Bubble Bath’ listens like a day dream in fast forward, complete with bonkers quack FX (!), while the hazy, crackling quasi-romance of ‘Wicked Love’ lands somewhere between Burial and The Blaze. The lo-slung, acid-y beats of final cut ‘Dancing On The Moon’ pack a genuine punch too, closing out a mini-concept record that should remind everyone of Numan’s pedigree. 7/10

Felix Dubs – ‘Clarity’ (Red Lagoon)

Spreading his wings

Doing much of his talking via his music, Birmingham’s Felix Dubs has quietly established his Red Lagoon imprint as a go-to next-gen grime label over the last 18 months, presiding over records from Jakebob, Gallah and more, as well as three solo EPs of his own. His latest, ‘Clarity’, is perhaps his most dexterous and versatile, abandoning OG sensibilities in favour of adventure. Classy opener ‘Clarity’ — a booming, down-tempo beat cut with winding, late-summer guitar licks — is a case in point, while jittery, pensive UK funky is the order of the day via second track, ’Steps’. Jazzy notes continue apace on the sumptuous ‘Want And Need’, with more mellow, reflective beats in ‘Midnight Blues’ and ‘Illuminate’ holding down the latter part of the tracklist. Final track ‘Soulfood’ signs off in similar, downtempo fashion, drawing the curtain on an EP full of poise and promise. 7/10

Commodo – ‘Procession’ (Deep Medi Musik)

A master at work

Commodo caps a stellar year by returning to Deep Medi for the latest in a series of standout conceptual records. ‘Procession’, comprised of three tracks ‘written in groups’ is loosely based around, in his own words, a ‘Lovecraft style story’ that unfurls with the nuance only Commodo can work into crunching, hi-pressure tracks of this ilk. Opener ‘Lobby Theme’ is intense and aloof at the same time, as frantic tribal drum work meets shady, cops-and-robbers style film noir, while the abstract bleeps and creeping, oddball tension of second track ‘Eldritch’ feels genuinely gripping and totally absorbing.The saga concludes with the shadowy, unerring rumble and mysterious choral chants of title-track ‘Procession’, which brings little closure — but maybe that’s exactly the point? Either way, it’s genius. 9/10

Monitor

As we close out 2020, it’s worth highlighting Lean Streets — new sister label of Trends’ Mean Streets — and their debut compilation, ‘Flavas’, featuring a collection of essential new grime flicks from P Jam, Felix Dubs, Lemzly Dale, D.O.K and more … and LCY’s new single, ‘Garden Of E10’, which features a vivid and wildly dystopian official video, signposting an intriguing future for her SZNS7N imprint … Looking ahead to January, Cella Records have lined up a debut multi-artist compilation of their own … out on January 22, ‘Radio Static’ details 10 weighty new tracks from a cross section of some of dubstep and grime’s most exciting next-gen beat-makers in Kodama, Drumterror, Nuboid and label head, Turner On The Track, amongst others … keep your eyes peeled for hot and heavy new plates from DJ Madd (‘Soldiers’ EP on Badman Studios) and Hebbe (‘Quiche / Looters’ on Next Level Dubstep) — trust us (!)… and we’re looking forward to hearing a much-rumoured new collaboration between Sam Binga, Gemmy, Sir Hiss and hotly-tipped MC, Emz, on Pineapple Records in 2021 too!

(LCY)

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