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Sep 15

Grime Scene Royal-T

"One day you'll see grime pays"--the memorable words of popular UK grime artist Wiley. It wasn't long ago that grime was soaring to the top of the UK charts, eventually surpassing all but the largest pop acts. Some might even compare the grime scene from a decade ago to today's trap scene--a trending subgenre of dance music that everyone seems to be talking about. Alas, grime is no longer buzzing as it once did, but still remains a significant piece in the puzzle of electronic music. Fortunately, artists like Royal-T have pushed grime in a new direction, combining grime's garage roots with a low-slung, untidy brashness. His current offering is the latest episode in Rinse's 'Presents' series, and epitomizes the diversity currently found in the scattered landscape of UK grime.

Rinse Presents: Royal-T is a twelve-track LP that really showcases Royal T's production chops. Mr. T's talents at meshing funk, garage, and future bass into a cohesive concert of beats and melodies are on full display. The entire LP is masterfully crafted, but none moreso than the super funky, old-school garage track Don't Call Me Baby. This tune is strictly dancefloor--delivering a Robyn S-styled house organ on top of a series of crunchy bass notes. The next tune, Missing Aurora, is a bit more post-dubstep than grime, and features a grinding, low-end sawtooth lead, giving the tune an edgier vibe than Don't Call Me Baby. Royal-T balanced the tune's darker tones with a delicately sprinkled vocal snippet that imparts the perfect amount of soul. Move along to Cruel To Be Kind for an unadulterated massacre. The track features grime star P Money spitting fire over a two-step rhythm and a low resolution, walloping bassline. For a full tracklist, head over to the Rinse website.
Royal-T - Don't Call Me Baby (Original Mix) [Rinse]
Royal-T - Missing Aurora (Original Mix) [Rinse]
Royal-T feat P Money - Cruel To Be Kind (Original Mix) [Rinse]
Jun 14

Swindle Gets Jazzy

Fans of Rinse FM have probably heard of the name Swindle, especially if they have listened to the grime/dubstep program curated by Rinse DJs Elijah and Skilliam. It was but a few months ago that Swindle released two tunes on the Elijah and Skilliam's Butterz label, one of which Swindle co-produced with SIlkie, a man known for massive releases on the Deep Medi record label. Now Swindle has joined Silkie on the Deep Medi artist roster, releasing his first EP on the imprint called Do The Jazz. As the title suggests, it's filled with funk, soul, R&B, and a lot of jazz!

It's not often that EDM acts get compared to the great musicians of this generation, but it's hard not to compare Swindle to Bobby McFerrin. There is such a comfortable blending of electro and jazz in Do The Jazz' title track that it hearkens back to McFerrin's experimental days as a producer. Listening to how the rounded bass stabs and slightly dissonant synth chirps easily transition into Telecaster guitar riffs and piano melodies speaks to the genius of this producer. Move on to the next track Under The Sun for a sound more true to Medi's current landscape of tunes. This song speaks to the raver, with a d'n'b-styled lead synth and some incredibly catchy melodic progressions. Skip to the next track, If I Was A Superhero, for a little "California Love" with some Roger Trautman-esque talkbox action and an early '90s R&B chorus.
Swindle - Do The Jazz (Original Mix) [Deep Medi Musik]
Swindle - Under The Sun (Original Mix) [Deep Medi Musik]
Swindle - If I Was A Super Hero (Original Mix) [Deep Medi Musik]
Mar 15

DVA's London Vybz

Rinse FM has long been one of London's most essential underground stations, and as a former host of their Grimey Breakfast Show, Leon Smart knows the UK bass scene like the back of his hand. On the back of a string of well-received 12"s under the alias Scratcha DVA, he drops his first LP Pretty Ugly operating simply as DVA . A couple of these tracks, like the fantastic Just Vybe featuring vocals from Floating Points collaborator Fatima, have been bouncing around in various forms for a while now, but Pretty Ugly's twelve tracks offer the most complete insight yet into Leon's irreverent musical personality.

Pretty Ugly is heavy on the female vocals, underpinning them with all manner of stuttering half-step beats and spasmodic synth jams. DVA's influences are laid out for all to see; UK funky by way of Bay Area hip-hop and a tackiness to the synths that reeks of grime circa 2003. His constructions are playful and mischievous, kaleidoscopic funk moods prone to veering unexpectedly. Sandwiched between vocal tracks are occasional instrumentals that bear stronger resemblance to his old material. Take dancefloor-primed Bare Fuzz for example, driven by a thudding dub bassline with rave aspirations while all manner of fragmented samples circle overhead. The title track is perhaps the best example of these two ideas fusing, Cornelia's doe-eyed vocals belying the staggered, abrasive rhythm that is the track's foundation.
DVA feat Fatima - Just Vybe (Original Mix) [Hyperdub]
DVA - Bare Fuzz (Original Mix) [Hyperdub]
DVA feat Cornelia - Pretty Ugly (Original Mix) [Hyperdub]
Jan 22

Montreal's Finest

Simple, yet complex. Dark, yet uplifting. Gritty, yet soulful. Sibian & Faun have managed to craft a song with vibes that stand emotionally opposed to one another. I'm Sorry is not just another song, it's art. This type of musical genius is incredibly rare, but it seems like Glasgow label Numbers intends to change that. I'm Sorry made its debut on Rinse FM, appearing in a Numbers guest mix back in April 2011, and the tune has managed to create a huge buzz for the duo. With only six production credits to their name, it's safe to say that these Canadians have a very bright future in front them.

I'm Sorry has a very simple melodic structure, but the essence of the song is in its complex filter modulation and creative vocal edits. When the song starts, much of the audible information resides in the lower frequencies, but it soon crescendos into a splash down of high-frequency grit. The melody is filter-modulated like this for much of the song, creating ebbs and flows between each growling chorus. The track's sampled Ashanti vocal is properly chopped, pitch-shifted, and delayed to the point of exhaustion, showing Sibian & Faun's painstaking attention to creative detail. The vocal edits in this tune set a new standard for dance music, or any other kind of music for that matter.
Sibian & Faun - I'm Sorry (Original Mix) [Numbers]
Jan 09

Rinse & Repeat

If Butterz label founders Elijah and Skilliam weren't known for their grime-centric DJ segment on Rinse FM, the eponymous Rinse 17 mix by the DJ duo might be classified as another genre, like post-dubstep or UK garage. Calling Rinse 17 a "grime" DJ mix would be doing it a disservice--the mix is a journey through several genres of dance music with many of its tracks employing elements from UK funky, breaks, and dubstep. Rinse 17 is a monumental mix in a long line of quality DJ sets bestowed upon dance music fans by the mighty Rinse FM. The tracklist weighs in at a whopping 28 tunes, and it flows effortlessly from beginning to end.

Rinse 17 is chock-full of wobbles, breaks, and beats, but a few tunes in particular demonstrate how outside of the box this mix truly is. The first tune that showcases this new, mashed-up style of grime is Arizona Skyz by P Jam. Any fan of breaks will instantly fall in love with its rolling hi-hats. Very simplistic in its delivery, the bass rides along on a syncopated track, hitting at some off-beats that enhance the tune's overall groove. Another incredibly addictive tune featured on this mix is more of a grime-influenced track called Orangeaid by Royal-T. It has everything a grime beat needs to move a dancefloor: chopped up drum patterns, claps and kicks, and a highly rhythmic lead synth line. This tune will be a staple in Elijah and Skilliam's DJ sets for a long time to come. Any post-dubstep fans will love the track Full Attention by Terror Danjah. The track features vocalist Ruby Lee Ryder, who imparts a heaping helping of soul on this bass-heavy stormer.

The entire Rinse 17 mix is a lesson in seamless beat matching, demonstrating just how evolved Elijah and Skilliam's mixing has become in recent years. Get ahold of the whole thing here!
P Jam - Arizona Skyz (Original Mix) [Rinse]
Royal-T - Orangeade (VIP) [Rinse]
Terror Danjah feat Ruby Lee Ryder - Full Attention (Original Mix) [Rinse]