Available on: Coyote Records
Grime is a bastard to package. As I said in the sleevenotes to my own Grime 2.0 compilation last year: “Try and sum it up and everyone will say you’re wrong. Ask five people within the scene what grime is, and you’ll get six different, conflicting answers.” In my case, I tried the quixotic task of being comprehensive – insiders and outsiders, bangers and lo-fi experimentalism, veterans and newcomers. The result made (of course!) for a brilliant listen and beautiful package, which you should buy, but any hope of being a representative overview was completely forlorn. This was hammered home by the spontaneous War Dubs / Lord of the Beats explosion later in 2013, which saw 200 and more beats plus radio shows plus club nights plus untold Twitter gas splurging out in unruly fashion without packaging or masterplan, but with the vigorous participation of the scene’s original movers and shakers, and captured and illustrated the spirit of the sound far more convincingly.
Coyote Records, on the other hand, sidestep these issues with an altogether more focused approach. This compilation is entirely new wave grime, almost all by producers with minimal connection to the original East London scene, designed for DJs not MCs, with high production values and dancefloor pleasure as its main aim. And in common with recent releases from the likes of Moony, SRC, Mr Mitch, Flava D and Swindle, pleasure really is the watchword: this is grime genuinely showing that it’s garage’s offspring, that it can be considered sexy. Even at the bolshiest, it’s sensual: take Chemist’s ‘Hoodrat’, though its bass tones blare out, their portamento slithers and buzzing chords send tingles through you.
Tracks by OH91 and Spare are dark and creepy-crawling but in sultry fashion, suggesting late evenings full of promise, rather than threat and jostling. Arctic, Jon Deville and Notion’s tunes are out-and-out luscious, full of the pads and ripples of early 90s Artificial Intelligence electronica before it glitched out into the evils of IDM. Checan’s track is slinky 2-step in the modern Midlands style, while P Jam – the only “true” grime producer here – does quite startling things with jungle breaks, pingy oldschool garage organs, reggae loops, E’d off their tits floaty synth chords and distinctly 21st century bass sounds on the classic in the making ‘Be Yourself’.
So the only proper grime producer in the bunch makes the track that is least grime – and the whole thing is so far from a turn-of-the century Bow youth club full of MCs fighting for the mic it might as well be in a different dimension. Yet it is grime. And that’s the joy of it, and the reason that grime’s perversity and inbuilt refusal of packaging is also its strength. Category bores can argue their noses off about authenticity or the lack thereof, but the fact that any one definition of grime will by definition be wrong is what has led to such diversity and freshness being possible now. And a personal, partial take like this album – a small window onto a small part of what grime is in 2014 – is probably the only viable way to make it work in the album format.