A temporary home for monthly Mixmag Grime & Dubstep reviews while the magazine remains out of print — here are February’s picks.
Album of the Month: Jammz – ‘Free Up The Riddims Volume 3’ (I Am Grime)
1. 3rd Sunday Service
2. Slippington Road
3. Format (Shottas Riddim)
Jammz lets another 10 stellar grime instrumentals loose in the third volume of his influential ‘Free Up The Riddims’ series. Purpose-built with enough space for MCs to pepper and enough energy for DJs to reload in the dance, the beats on offer here flit between moody, sub-dwelling burners like ‘NWO’ and final track ‘Termite’, and skippier, breakneck cuts like the superbly-titled ‘Slippington Road’. There’s depth and nuance to individual tracks though too; from the deft sampling and Black Ops-style sublow cannon on ‘Format (Shottas Riddim)’ to the brooding tension and filmic crackle of ‘NWO’, every one has its own calling card. Jammz’ work may continue to go under-the-radar of late, but this latest anthology is more proof that he remains one of grime’s most versatile and naturally gifted creators. 9/10
Tune of the Month: Ikonika – ‘Snarge’ (Bandcamp)
Big, moody, hoods-up energy from Ikonika here on a track lifted from eight-track Bandcamp special, ‘No Feelings Required’ — a rare collection of tracks traversing both grime and drill. ‘Snarge’ is arguably the best of the lot, a booming, blood-and-thunder beat tempered by bright, rippling melody lines and sugary chiptune flashes. Although perfect foil for your favourite MC — our tip would be Capo Lee (!) — it listens just as well in isolation, such is Ikonika’s knack for writing emotive and impactful club music whatever the tempo. 8/10
Nothingnice & Hayz – ‘Hawkeye’ EP ft. Riko Dan & Logan (Durkle Disco)
Durkle go Nationwide, no Bradford & Bingley!
Durkle Disco continue their knack of cross-pollinating city-centric grime and dubstep scenes on ‘Hawkeye’ — a collaboration between artists young-and-old from Leeds (Hayz), Bristol (Nothingnice) and London (Riko Dan, Logan). The title-track is the big sell, a nasty, snarling underground anthem-in-waiting, cut in the bruising style of tracks like ’Topper Top’ and Kahn & Neek’s 2012 classic, ’Percy’. The instrumental is dark and dungeon-dwelling, Riko’s vocal stark and ominous, but there’s also room for lighter club energy on DJ Polo’s sludgy, funky mix that pulls the tempo back down into the low 130s. Alongside the ‘Hawkeye’ instrumental, the EP also comes backed up by heavy-duty, squarewave joust, ‘Shell Dem’ — a collaboration with frequent label collaborator and prolific MC, Logan, who pulls few punches on a haunting, dancehall-flavoured vocal of his own. 8/10
Mungk – ‘Kuji’ EP (DUPLOC)
Low frequencies, high consciousness
A fresh quartet of intriguing system-rattlers via Leeds-based producer Mungk on DUPLOC — one of contemporary dubstep’s most prominent new-school outposts. From the fraught, thumping low end of opener ‘Kuji’ to the spiky, 808 heat on ‘Rajasthan’, this is an EP also anchored in memories of (or spiritual homage to) India. Beautiful, swirling melodies dance atop the booming, grizzly beats underneath across all four tracks, joining the dots between club functionality and sentimental, post-club wonder. Our tip are the gorgeous, woodwind melodies of reverb-heavy final jam, ‘Macaque’, but every track has a story to tell. 8/10
Becky On The Beat – ‘Black Girl Magic’ EP (Bandcamp)
‘Black Girl Magic’ forms the latest in a long-line of instrumental releases by Becky On The Beat — a producer firmly on the rise. The raw, no-frills pressure of booming opener ‘Black Girl Magic’ is a fitting entry point to an EP doused in flame, with even the record’s lighter moments — see silky after-burner ‘140 Babymaker’ — still packing plenty for the dance. The breezy rhythms and glitchy, 16-bit pulse of ‘Grill Pioneer’ make for a intriguing curveball, but normal service is soon resumed on scorching rally-anthem, ‘Queen Bekz’, and the mean, 808 clasp of ‘Fly Out The Wizz 2’. There’s room for a vocal too, with Nasty Jack lending his bars to a special version of ‘140 Baby Maker’. 7/10
Boardgame James – ‘Step Into My Office’ (1000Doors)
New-gen grime label 1000Doors continue a strong early run of releases with label boss Boardgame James stepping up to the plate for a second time. Written as his own tribute to Sinogrime, ‘Step Into My Office’ feels like a natural extension of his 2020 debut solo project, ‘Daydream’ — itself an exercise in world-building — and its four tracks unravel like a intricately-woven tapestry. Opener ‘Bird Cage, Bird Soup’ is both joyous and transportive, functioning like a welcome into James’ tranquil new world, while the giddy, pan-flute rush of ‘Incense Riddim’ bursts with excitement and anticipation. ‘Last Sunday Of The Year’, a collaboration with fellow grime mysterio, Shatyaan, is the EP’s most functional, with rugged beats and OG grime string work tracing myriad Sino-melodies, before drifting into the endgame of ambient closer, ‘Campfires, Tents & Bedding Pt. II’ — the final chapter in Boardgame James’ latest faraway epic. 9/10
Brightwing – ‘Marching Orders’ EP (Badman Studios)
Miami bass weight comes to the party on ‘Marching Orders’ on Badman Studios, with Brightwing firing out the sort of low-end to trouble even the sturdiest club system. Title-track ‘Marching Orders’ opens with charging drums and growling, guttural pressure — a real monster — while the tense, eerie atmospherics and mechansied crunch of ‘Doom Patrol’ keep things just as dark and ominous. Third track ‘Franklin CT’ is heavy on sub (to say the least!) but light on motion, the bass landing more like a murmur lodged in your chestplate than a full-body workout, while the pressure on swirling, roots-inspired final jam ‘Euphoria Dub’ is off the chain. Should probably come with some sort of warning! 7/10
Panix – ‘Who You Are’ EP (In:Flux Audio)
Not for the faint hearted
Biggest, baddest dubstep flavours courtesy of Panix, who debuts for In:Flux Audio with new four-track plate, ‘Who You Are’. Opener ‘One Moment’ goes hard in the paint from second one, channelling the sort of OG steppa sound that’s come to typify his output, while title-track ‘Who You Are’ sees him lock horns with young grime kingpin, Dunman. Cut with wobble aplenty, it’s dizzying and frenetic — a throwback to the sort of pressure early Capsa & Rusko productions used to throw out — and comes complete with a face-melting breaks mix via Six Sunsets producer, Ekula. There’s also a scything, Tik&Borrow re-rub of ‘One Moment’ thrown in for good measure, too. 6/10
JT The Goon – ‘Mad Memories’ (Bandcamp)
Bringing it back
Veteran grime producer JT The Goon was responsible for one of instrumental grime’s truly great albums in 2014’s ‘King Triton’ and while things may not have been plain sailing since, he remains a wizard behind the buttons. On ‘Mad Memories’, he conjures familiar magic, flowing between reflective, melodic grime on the title-track to harder, whirring head-nodders like ‘Gliding Tears’ and the rasping, ‘The Other Side’, both of which still dabble in the sort of earworm melodies that first made JT’s name. Our tip is final track, ‘Free Why Lee’, purely for its fluttery, xylophonic flashes and the nods to East Asia that have always made his music feel so engrossing. 8/10
Basic Rhythm & Lamont – ‘Hard Shoulder / Spring Back’ (Raw Basics)
(Spring) Back to the future — and back again!
Basic Rhythm — alternate club moniker of grime producer, East Man — is back with a third outing on his no-frills club imprint, Raw Basics. Joining forces with Swamp81 producer Lamont, the pair spar on two coarse, standout tracks that repurpose traditional club dynamics. A sharp, futuristic take on what Nervous Horizon’s TSVI coined ‘body music’ at the back end of 2020, A-side ‘Hard Shoulder’ might root itself in ‘80s electro and early Detroit techno, but finds its sweet spot in blurring the lines between then, now and tomorrow. Temporal, drone-like stabs and rugged percussion crash around fractious, bludgeoning electro rhythms that perplex as much as they do intrigue, while the oddball body swerve and rubbery, elastic beats of B-side ‘Spring Back’ feel even more alien and space-age. 8/10
This month, look out for Jossy Mitsu’s superb debut production EP, ‘Planet J’, which is out now on Astral Black … also be sure to check the third volume of ONHELL’s on-point ‘Remixtape’ series, which sees him flip tracks by everyone from Mz Bratt to Paramore all in the name of the party … and Run Outs, a breakout, vinyl-only label putting out sought after grime and dubstep patter on limited-run wax, continue to make waves … their latest cut (‘Gaza / The Curse’) comes courtesy of Austrian supremo, Pharma, and might just be the hardest plate we’ve heard so far in 2021 … looking ahead, there are a slew of great records on the horizon in March, from Canadian producer Yedgar dipping into the whirlpool on Terrorhtyhm to Kodama turning heads on Infernal Sounds and Tik&Borrow debuting for ever-reliable dubstep label, Simply Deep.