27 December 2004

Grime: "The Emperor's New Clothes"?!

Remember the old adage, kids: "Never Trust A Hippy".

For at least the past 18 months, Grime has (along with it's sub-genres) undoubtedly been the most exciting thing happening in British electronica. As someone who's always asserted that all true innovation comes from 'Up North', I've had to swallow my pride and admit that, right now, the London Massive are streets ahead of the competition. I'm just not feeling the stuff coming down from the Pennines at all at the moment - it's just pointless retro escapism, indie kids trading-in their guitars for analogue synths, thinking they can tap into the creative energy that fueled the synthetic-pop fantasies of the early Human League and Vice Versa. But the ideas are second-hand, the quality third-rate.

Grime sounds like reality to me. Dubstep sounds like The Truth. From my remote outpost here in the West Country, I've been dragged inexorably further into this scene, where the music is, by and large, still at underground level - the virus spread via mix tapes, pirate radio and limited quantities of 12 inch vinyl. For many, the easiest way to catch-up on what's happening is to download the various MP3 mixes that appear at regular intervals, but I always tend to latch-on to the producers - the backroom boys cooking-up beats in their little home studios - rather than the DJs and MCs who work these raw materials into a continuous flow of stimulation for the crowds. Essentially, I'm into tracks, not mixes.

Many 'true' Grime tracks tend to be very sparse affairs, with limited production values - their role is to provide a backdrop for the MCs to shoot rhymes over at a later date. This is probably why I tend to gravitate to the Dubstep/Fwd/Croyden side of the equation, where the emphasis is on texture and atmosphere. They work well as instrumentals in their own right. Mark One, Digital Mystikz, Loefah, Slaughter Mob and Search & Destroy are just some of the most important artists right now, but if there's anyone who really deserves to be 'leader of the pack', it must be Chris Reed, aka Plasticman.



Of all them, Plasticman is the artist who seems to push for a harder, 'Grimier' sound. He has quite rightly complained about people labeling his work as 'Dubstep' - the reggae influences aren't particularly noticeable. Perhaps 'Techstep' would be a better description. His aggressive beats can find their way into a 'bashment' set just as much as a 'Fwd' one. One of his most recent tracks ("Be There Or Be Square") draws ever closer to Wiley's sound. But, to use a Terminator analogy, if Wiley is the cold yet externally human aspect of Arnie's cyborg assassin, Plasticman is the hard, grimacing skeleton that remains when all the synthetic flesh has been burned-off.

I still find it slightly ridiculous that there are only four Plasticman tracks that have been released on CD (on Rephlex's "Grime" album). As for legal download options- forget it! He's been busily releasing his music on limited vinyl EPs on various small labels including his own Terrorhythm imprint, so only DJs and people closely involved in the scene are really getting to hear his work. Surely there'll be an album in 2005?

For now, here's three vinyl tracks to tempt you, from the Cha, Lift and Venom EPs respectively. Feel that barely-suppressed violent energy... the way the bass seems to swerve at you. Fucking deadly.

Plasticman - The Search

Plasticman - Sandstorm

Plasticman - Venom

3 comments:

Loki said...

an ontological attack from an Idiot's Guide insider and it's not even January yet...I get the feeling 2005's gonna be a great year...

Great stuff, Nick.

>>>>SN said...

just downloading the Plasticman tracks now...thanks for posting them....been very interested in this "other Grime" business; will convey my thoughts when absorbed the music/sobered up.

PRANCEHALL said...

thanks for the mp3s.

plasticman is working with MCs but i don't know if he'll put out an album. he will need rephlex to fund it, otherwise there's no way it'll happen.

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