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V/A - Grime 2

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Artist: V/A

Album: Grime 2

Label: Rephlex

Review date: May. 8, 2005

Following their well-received initial Grime compilation, Rephlex return with a second volume, again showcasing three artists with several tracks from each. This is a good approach, trading breadth of coverage for depth by allowing each artist to display more than one aspect of their sound; although, truth be said, not all of them take full advantage of the opportunity.

But anyway, is grime an actual genre? Is the difference between grime and, say, two-step clear enough that you could say with confidence where a given artist belongs? In all honesty, probably not. The British electronica scene, in particular, has spent the past 10 years tossing out one sub-genre after another so rapidly that none of them mean much anymore: garage, dubstep, jungle, ad nauseum. Naturally, it doesn't matter much to anyone but stylistic trainspotters. From one point of view, grime's just a way for everyone to try to tag along with Dizzee Rascal's success. More power to them.

In this case, it's all about the beats, with no MCs involved - these tracks are instrumentals (leaving aside the occasional vocal sample), perhaps to be used by some future MC. Compilations like Run the Road are more representative of the grime "scene" as a whole, with members of the Roll Deep Crew, Lady Sovereign (newly signed to Island) - this is more like an appetizer tray, something to try first before getting into the real thing.

Kode 9, resident DJ at FWD>> in London, is represented by four pieces. Ranging from mid-tempo dubbed-out beats to cavernous deep rhythms, his tracks sometimes feel an awful lot like older drum'n'bass (see "Sub-Kontinent"). "Swarm" might be his best, with bass synth that breathes with a stuttering beat and middle-eastern string samples over the top. "Ping" will satisfy those looking for a sound that's more dank and ominous.

The middle three tracks are from Loefah, another Fwd DJ but a step back from Kode 9. He sets up a track with some pretty interesting rhythms, but doesn't go anywhere with them. The samples don't change, and the beats don't either, so it's pretty much a straight line from beginning to end. "Bombay Squad" has a nice vocal sample, and "Fire Elements" has a strong bass-heavy beat, but they need more. "Beat Them" is the best example of the problem, with tired kung-fu flick samples over and over.

Digital Mystikz, the duo Mala and Coki, finish up with three tracks. They've got a great feel for beats, making the most of a little. They manage to set up sparse, skeletal rhythms that may not be as heavy as the other guys, but they make up for it with intricacy. "Awake" gets the pulse quickening, while "Country Man" sets up a percussive framework with funny little synth decorations and distant voices. "CR7 Chamber" is a really minimal piece compared to most on here, all metallic clinks like stickwork on pipes, flickering over bare shaker hits. The openness works well, though it may not be as effective as a dance tune or as useful for an MC. It's more like the soundtrack for a mysterious sci-fi flick.

There's definitely some interesting stuff going on here, but Rephlex are going to have to take care. Things are moving quickly, and since the first volume of Grime brought us Mark One, Plasticman, and Slaughter Mob, both the meaning of grime and its place in the musical landscape have changed. There's not as much musical unity on this volume as the last, and it's quite possible that grime will soon have expanded to the point where another volume may be meaningless.

By Mason Jones

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