Thursday, 17 June 2010

Grime instrumentals... their time

I've been meaning to write down my thoughts about the current grime scene for a while, it's something that's not only interesting to me but seemingly interesting to the mainstream music media again, mainly due to the success of a few familiar MCs. Grime was apparently due to explode onto the charts for a few years between 2003 and 2006, and although some artists had limited success in this period, I think it's fair to say that the majority of MCs have not had their talent within grime rewarded. Instead, the likes of Dizzee, Wiley, Tinchy and Chipmunk have all found success in chart friendly dance-pop, which lacks the same barriers to performance that grime has through form 696. These barriers to grime have not been replicated in other scenes, most notably dubstep, which, as it has an ethnically whiter audience, is more or less ignored by the Metropolitan Police. This has restricted the grime MCs to pirate radio and mixtapes, with many of the DJs migrating to funky house (eventually becoming distinct from US style funky house and becoming what is now known as UK funky).

Post 2007, dubstep and UK funky have been dominant in the clubs and on Rinse FM, and production wise, grime seemed largely stagnant and lacking the inventiveness that the likes of Wiley, Terror Danjah, Jon E Cash, Low Deep and Geeneus had brought to the scene in its earlier years. On the MC side of things, only few seemed to be doing anything of an quality, and to most observers it looked like grime was in trouble. Some even proclaimed that grime was dead, or at least dying.

Around this time a number of producers came from dubstep who themselves were heavily influenced by instrumental grime. Two good examples of this are Joker and Starkey. They, along with others such as Guido and Gemmy, produced beats driven by the strength of their bold melodies and colourful, densely layered synths, often combined with 8-bit type sounds. They're all often categorised as dubstep, probably because they don't often perform with an MC, but to my ears the most of the riddims are more grime. Their success over the past couple of years has, for sure, been within dubstep more than grime, and there was always a similarity between the two genres (they were, after all, both derived from garage), but the effect on the instrumental grime scene has been amazing.

In the past year and a bit, grime instrumentals have been huge. Terror Danjah has returned from a hiatus and has returned with a large slab of technicolour p-funk derived synth work which sounds similar in some ways to what Joker has been doing, and has recently started DJing, not as a platform for the MC but as a performance of the best instrumental grime. Dubstep producer Untold's productions Anaconda and Gonna Work Out Fine were almost like a homage to grime producers BigShot, Wiley and Musical Mobb. Other producers, like Swindle, Rude Kid, Silencer, SRC, Royal-T and Teeza have been on fire lately, their dancefloor friendly productions given their own space on Rinse on the always excellent Butterz show, always masterfully mixed at great pace by Elijah and Skilliam. I cannot rave about these guys enough, they're charismatic and play loads of instrumental grime, along with a couple of vocal led tracks. They don't just play big names either, consistently exhibiting upcoming talent as well as the aforementioned few. They play both dubstep and grime raves and probably the biggest accolade you can give them is that they've turned many of the hardcore dubsteppers on to instrumental grime.

Another point worth mentioning is the releases themselves. For a while it seemed like 12" vinyl was a dead format to grime, even more so instrumental grime, with CD mixtapes from MCs landing with regularity, but these days grime instrumentals not just get releases, but get them on comparatively large, established labels such as Planet Mu, Hyperdub and Numbers. Other labels, like Butterz, Rwina and No Hats No Hoods are selling (and selling out of) instrumental 12s, a mark of just how much instrumental grime has permeated into dances.

A few of my favourite old grime instrumentals:

XTC - Functions on a Low (Ruff Sqwad Remix)

This one a heart melter. And it has harpsichords. Nothing more to say, it's just amazing...

DJ Eastwood - U Ain't Ready

This one's recently been remixed by Untold and the remix seems to divide opinion somewhat. Probably because the original is massive...

Wiley - Igloo

Both this and Ice Rink are as massive as they were revolutionary. I just felt picking two Wiley tunes would be greedy.

Wizzbit - Poppadoms

The 'sinogrime' style combined eastern sounds and twitchy beats. It's pretty sick. For more of this sound Kode9 did a mix, which makes me wish I knew what half of the tunes were so I could hunt them down...

And a few of my favourite newish grime instrumentals:

Joker - Stuck in the System

Probably my favourite Joker tune, and if you listen to the show you probably have some idea of how much we love Joker.

Swindle - Daredevil

This one's funky, not like as in "UK funky" but like "slap bass" funky... It's so over the top, but I think that's why I love it so much

SRC - Lemsip (Mr Mitch Remix)

Download this one, it's free and amazing. The original is a lot but the remix... shhhiiiitttttttt.

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