VA: Grime

Call it Grime, Dubstep, whatever you want ‘cos this irresistible jungle-dub cocktail is fantastic no matter what you call it. Grime's the sound of androids mating and machines rebelling, the menacing music of cyborg nightmares. In a sense, it's IDM but that sounds totally absurd given the term's standard associations, yet Grime is supremely danceable and sophisticated so the term fits even if it demands re-definition. Offering a thorough overview of the genre, Rephlex spotlights three progenitors of the style, MarkOne, Plasticman, and Slaughter Mob, by giving them four tracks each.

Judging by his contributions, MarkOne's the real star here. “Stargate 92” is all slamming precision beats and sci-fi weirdness, and the way he scatters drum rolls is divine. Imagine Photek's elephantine bass and thwacking beats updated for the 2004 jungle and you'll have some idea of MarkOne's sound. “Raindance” takes off in another direction entirely, with dancehall beats and yelping female ululations segueing into dubstep patterns and snaking bass lines. Massive hammering beats drive “Interference” and, just when you imagine it can't get any better, he adds throbbing bass and sirens to deepen the funk further. Only “Too Hard” cools the pace slightly but the roiling piece evidences as much craft and intelligence as the other three.

Plasticman exhumes the hoary Technotronic corpse on “Pump Up The Jam” and infuses it with robotic life while “Camel Ride” pairs exotic Eastern flutes with warbling bass lines and thwacking beats. He moves into the factory with the crushing rhythms and slicing machines of “Industrial Graft” but brightens the mood with dirty synths and voice yelps on “The Music.” The tracks are fine but, when heard after MarkOne's stunners, impress less.

Slaughter Mob (DJ Bandit + DJ Gritty, MC Vicious, MC Dangerous) offers obvious contrast to the other two by adding vocals but the grime style remains. The group offers thunderous dancehall on “Dub Weapon” and sci-fi synths on “Black Hole” but frankly the Mob's tracks are the weakest of the lot. Like Plasticman's, they're good enough, just not a match for MarkOne's. Furthermore, Slaughter Mob's attempts to engender menace sound manufactured and hence unthreatening. Needless to say, menace oozes effortlessly from the MarkOne pieces.

At first glance, the quasi-gothic geometric letterforms and silver-grey colours of the cover design suggest that the music within might be ungodly hair-metal or something equally horrid. After listening to the music, however, the connection between the surgically chiseled typographic forms and the futuristic precision of the Grime style comes into clear focus. MarkOne in particular offers indelible proof of Grime's potency as an incredible re-imagining of IDM.

May 2004