Sunday, April 21, 2013

BREAKBEAT GARAGE a.k.a "Grime Ahoy!"
from Unfaves 2000 (written spring 2001)

by Simon Reynolds

When this flavour of "garage" first started to come through--must have been late
1999, with Deekline--I remember being excited by the way the sultry, swinging R&B-2step flow would be disrupted by this much more raw, stripped down and rhythmically unsupple sound that was disconcertingly similar to Big Beat: 130 bpm breaks, bulbous bass, wacky samples. But what was refreshing about these tune--"I Don't Smoke", later the more electro-flavored "Dilemma" by So Solid Crew--when they were a brief tang of different flavour, becomes tediously homogenous as a scene/sound on its own. Stanton Warriors's Da Virus" especially seems to be the drab template for a lot of this stuff, and "138 Trek" wore out its welcome fairly quick. There's some cool-enough stuff, I suppose--like Blowfelt's bippety bassline tune "Lickle Rolla"---but generally it sounds too much like jungle minus the extra b.p.m speed-rush, hardcore without the E-fired euphoria. Or worse like nu-skool breaks (alarming to see Rennie 'Stupid Fucking Name' Pilgrem reviewing 2step tunes in Muzik's breakbeat column).

That said, the last batch of pirate tapes I got, showed signs of a new twist in this breakstep (or whatever they're calling it) direction: not so much jungle-slowed-down, and more like a post-rave, drum'n'bass influenced form of English rap. On these spring 2001 pirate tapes, there's hardly any R&B diva tunes, and every other track features very Lunndunn-sounding MCs or ragga-flavored vocals, over caustic acid-riffs and techsteppy sounds, like some latterday Dillinja production. Unlike with techstep or recent d&b, there's very little distorto-blare in the production, there's this typically 2step clipped, costive feel, an almost prim and dainty quality to the aggression-- a weird combo of nasty and neat-freak. Lyrically, the vibe seems to be similarly pinched in spirit, a harsh, bleak worldview shaped subconsciously by the crumbling infrastructural reality beneath New Labour's fake grin; UKG seems to be already transforming itself from boom-time music to recession blues. The Englishness of the vocals reminds me of 3 Wizemen Men and that perpetual false-dawn for UK rap. Lots of killer tunes I can't identify, but one in particular stood out that I could: "Know We" by Pay As U Go Kartel. As I say, quite mean-minded and loveless music but sonically very exciting-- a new twist if not quite paradigm shift from the hardcore continuum.

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