— GRIME & DUBSTEP MONTHLY™ —

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

Album of the Month: Nammy Wams – ‘Paradise South’ (AP Life)

Long overdue flowers

Highlights

1. Insides

2. Fears

3. Sidestep

South London producer Nammy Wams has always found joy in experimenting with OG grime and new school drill tropes, blending them with outlying sounds and ideas in the lab, before battering the results on his Croydon FM radio show. It’s a formula that’s seen him carve out a reputation as a pioneer in his field for those with their ears to the ground in London and on ‘Paradise South’ — his new album for Bok Bok’s freshly-minted AP Life — this vision for his music feels now fully formed and fully realised. A natural extension of 2019’s  20-track opus of sorts, ’Yellow Secret Technology’, ‘Paradise South’ isn’t all guns blazing or in your face, but it feels wholly of-the-time. From the sludgy, cinder block drill bounce of opener ‘Pellets’ to the whirring, distorted sirens and snarling pressure of standout cut ‘Insides’, this is a record to soundtrack the world Nammy hears around him. Across all 11 tracks, he cuts in-and-out of grime, drill, rap and mutant hybrids of all three, refining rather than reinventing, as he goes. Further highlights include the mellow, cartoon-y lean of ‘Sidestep’ and the anxious, concrete-plated RnG of ‘Fears’, but there’s a lot to digest and take stock of all over the tracklist. ‘Paradise South’ could, and arguably should, be a record people revisit for many, many years to come. 9/10

Tune of the Month: Commodo – ‘Scabz’ (Sector 7 Sounds)

A brilliant, relentless innovator

Every time we review a Commodo record we say we’ve run out of superlatives to throw at him — and here we are throwing superlatives at him. A wizard in every sense, on ’Scabz’, the A-side of a new 12” for Boofy’s Sector 7 label, he diverts his attention away from the Wild West thematics of his latest doubler-header for Black Acre to focus purely on sound. It opens with tense, oddball clatter, before slowly unravelling, piece-by-piece, layer by later. It’s dark, ominous and scuttling, with much of its forward motion dictated by a master sample framework that forms the chassis of the track itself. Lo-slung beats do murmur in the background, but the real genius of Commodo’s work here is subtlety, and deftness of touch. He remains one of the best to ever do it. Period. 10/10

Druid – ‘Xeroxed’ EP (Off-Switch Audio)

Neon futures

Snarling future sounds from London-based producer, Druid, who debuts for Off-Switch Audio with new four-track EP, ‘Xeroxed’. Flowing between obvious genre touch points — grime, dubstep and wave — he paints a stark, neon-lit view of the future. The winding, square-wave shards and soft, dancing melody flashes on opener ‘Cypher Dub’ feel like they’ve been lifted from a Blade Runner cut scene, while the rumbling, low-end murmur, bouncy pads and screechy, monochrome synth work of ‘Digital Terminal’ could easily soundtrack late night drives across Tron City. Third track ‘Dred Pirate’ is the EP’s most heads-y, revelling in its own low-frequency red zone, albeit laced with the same tight grip on atmosphere that Druid manages to channel right across the tracklist. ‘Xeroxed’ also comes complete with a sharp, breezy UKG flavoured remix of ‘Digital Terminal’ via Off-Switch regular, Nuboid, too boot. A real welcome surprise. 8/10

Kodama – ‘Clear Your Head’ EP (Infernal Sounds)

Grab at all costs

More high-grade material from UK dubstep’s most reliable outpost in Infernal Sounds, this time courtesy of Barcelona’s Kodama. The magic in new EP ‘Clear Your Head’ lies in the dexterous sampling and extraordinary layering of his tracks; from the rain-soaked opening throws and booming melancholy of opener ‘Alder’ to wheezing, nightmarish sub-dweller ‘Bad Blood’, flashes of genius litter the tracklist. The sombre, delicate string work of title track, ‘Clear Your Head’, is perhaps the EP’s calling card — it seems to find its brightest light in its darkest moments — but there’s also ‘From Atlantis’ to consider; a stunning collaboration with fellow producer, Soukah, that exudes a gorgeous, fluorescent day-glo all of its own making. Pure class from start to finish. 9/10

Yedgar – ‘Life Cycle’ EP (Terrorhythm)

What a rush!

Canadian producer Yedgar offers up his debut EP for Plastician’s genre-blurring, next-gen talent hub, Terrorhythm, with five tracks of pure shimmer. Everything feels bright, airy and future proof as show-stealing opener ‘Mythic’ — a sugary, full-blooded collaboration with wave pioneer, Sorsari — testifies. There’s room for clever use of pitched-up, bubblegum vocals on buggy, system-rattler ‘The Time Has Come’ and spiralling highs on the trance-inflected, tempered euphoria of ‘So Lost’, with title-track ‘Life Cycle’ continuing the same heady, out-of-body melody rush apace. Final cut, ‘Set You Free’, samples the chorus of N’Trance’s dance classic of the same name, only pitched down, looped and set against its own syrupy, saccharine-doused synth patchwork. Mega! 7/10

Drone – ‘Evil Sky’ EP (1985 Music)

Holding nothing back

Drone’s music has continued to evolve and mutate over the last two years, first via releasing on V.I.V.E.K’s SYSTEM label and more recently, joining the ranks at 1985 Music — Alix Perez’s born-again bass label currently churning out some of the UK’s best 140bpm music. On ‘Evil Sky’, Drone rules with an iron first, going hard in the paint from the off via the searing, scorched earth pressure (and texture!) of his title-track, before stripping it all back on fidgety, shuffling second jam, ’Back & Forth’. He draws for the tool chest on the rasping, off-kilter, mechanised swirl of ‘M416’ — a real excursion from Drone’s more familiar patterns — before plunging the EP into the depths on dark and menacing, face-melting closer, ‘Disturbed’. For those copping digitally, there’s also a bonus track in the form of eerie, scything club burner, ’Reptar’s Revenge’, too. 8/10

Sicaria Sound – ‘Binate’ EP (Bandcamp)

A debut to remember

Sicaria Sound may have announced they’ll be bringing the project to an end in 2021, but they’re still determined to go out with a bang. Comprised of DJ/producers Ndeko and Imbratura, the pair have made waves with their vivid, dubstep selections and the launch of their Cutcross label over the last two years, but new EP, ‘Binate’, actually forms their debut record proper. Rather than ‘succumb to lockdown blues’ as referenced in the press release, time was harnessed, ideas were manifested and sounds were created — and the outcome is a real triumph. Dwindling opener ‘Caved In’ initially feels neither here nor there, the sounds of trickling water and ambling string work capturing this sense of being frozen in time, before the bass kicks and everything comes to life — it’s a total zoners — while the pair explore murkier depths on the contorted boom of ‘Lour’. Our tip is probably ‘Midnight Strike (Kosem’s Revenge)’ purely for its entrancing, rhythmic drum work, oddball keys and overarching sense of wonder and mystique, before EP closer ‘It’s Down, Right?’ signs off as its own, inverted ode to the work of hip-hop producers like Timbaland. 8/10

TiAtSiM – ‘The Basement Vol.1’ (Bandcamp)

Stepping out!

Despite being a respected DJ and ever-present figure in London’s grime scene for many years, TiAtSiM had never put a record out until the release of debut EP collection, ‘The Basement Vol.1’ — three tracks of which were made in his basement, and the other in fellow grime producer Lewi B’s loft. A fan and purveyor of the genre in its purest and most undiluted forms, his work here therefore lands as a bit of a surprise. There’s a starry-eyed tilt to the EP’s track names, while the rubbery, elastic jazz-funk of opener ‘Galaxy’ is a sharp contrast to what fans can expect to hear from his House Of Grime show on Mode FM — but maybe that’s the point. Second track ‘Cosmic Hugs’ picks up where ‘Galaxy’ left off too, unfurling like a sprawling web of down-tempo, greazy electronica, before the jittery, 8-bar pulse of ‘The Chase’ lands a more conventional, grimy jab. Final track ‘Wiley vs Dizzee DUB’ feels like a bit of fun — a collaborative exercise in chop-and-screw with Lewi B, the pair cut-and-pasting Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U’ instrumental and an assorted splash of Wiley and Dizzee beat references, including early ‘00s Dizzee classic, ’Strings Hoe’. Not bad for a debut EP. Not bad at all. 8/10

Rocks FOE – ‘RELX Part Three’ (Bandcamp)

Incredible

A precociously talented, deep-thinking MC and equally gifted beat-maker, Rocks sometimes feels too talented for his own good. Bound by integrity, he presses on year in, year out, releasing music seemingly at will and without much notice — even his 2017 debut full-length, ‘Fight The Good? Fight’, felt like a bolt from the blue. But whenever he does put music out, boy should everyone sit up. ‘RELX Part Three’ is his latest — a nine-track odyssey of lived-in story-telling and genuine, mic flow wizardry — and while he may have deferred from the grime-dubstep intersection he used to inhabit quite naturally, there doesn’t feel like a beat or a tempo he couldn’t spit on. Opener ‘As You Were’ is light and breezy and sees him experiment with Kendrick-style diction and rhyming style, while the thoughtful, singalong hooks of tracks like ‘PTW’ — again cut with snare rolls galore — feel instantly recognisable. There are nods to the greats — see the lo-fi magic of ‘What’s The Dilla’ — and also experimentation, with tracks like ‘Knee High’, ‘Plasma’ and standout closer, ‘Buttons Pressed’, instead capturing Rocks at his more typical, breathless, free-flowing best. On this sort of form, you’d be hard pressed to name a better MC in the country. 9/10

Animai – ‘Island’ (DMY Artists)

A name to watch

Melting 140 delirium from Animai — a producer with three releases under her belt in 2021 already. ‘Island’, released via Dummy’s DMY Artists imprint, traces the woozy, sumptuous electronics of bands like Portishead and hugely influential duo, Zero7, only beefed up by rolling, crunching drums and a winding, ominous-in-places groove. Her vocals soar too, flitting between lullaby and trance-like haze, to land as a smooth, soul-searching slice of bass-y escapism. If that wasn’t enough, LX One is also in charge on remix duties; think dark, sludgy, dangerous deconstructionism — just listen out for those fizzing, electric-fence bass pulses. Jeez! 7/10

Monitor

This month, look out for a killer new drop by Grandmixxer and Mez — their ‘Versus 002’ EP is typically riotous and serves as a primer of sorts for new Grandmixxer EP, ‘Hypersonic Symphony’, which he’s been teasing for the last month … there are also great new records to look forward to from Nova (‘Bonafide’) on Infernal Sounds and Sir Hiss, who will release new EP ‘Wot’ via his No More Mailouts imprint on April 16 … Young Bristol MC Emz continues to make all the right noises too — his new single, ‘Fist & Boot’, bleeds into his forward motion after the release of former Polymer TOTM, ‘Finna’, back in January … long-time collaborators Trends, Boylan, D.O.K and P Jam have also joined forces as Legion — a new grimy producer super-group who will release their debut EP, ‘We Are Many’, via Artikal Music on April 16 … and finally, look out for a gorgeous, hyper-personal debut LP from Glasgow-based producer, Kami-O … ‘Biren’ is named after his late grandfather and explores his Indian heritage in intricate and engrossing detail — it releases later this month. 

(Emz)

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