, July 19th, 2010 12:59
What must a life in grime entail? One constant, it would seem, is the struggle for any artist to find a long-term, profitable niche. We've seen some speculate on a foothold in the charts; for a few, like Boy Better Know MC Skepta, the real answer is to knuckle down into the role of plucky entrepreneur.
Among grime producers, as opposed to vocalists, there are murmurs that now is the time independently to find a way forward. DJs such as Rinse FM's Elijah and Skilliam (who released Terror Danjah's previous EP on their label Butterz) are nurturing a latent appreciation for the music in its raw form, minus vocals, along with a perception that quality is at a high. The current school take guidance from Terror Danjah's methods more than any other veteran's: his supple apprehension of rhythm may be a rare gift, but in the work of SRC or Swindle there is the same pointillist attention to detail, lighting up in crisp stereo familiar and luxuriously ectoplasmic tones.
It can't be pure coincidence that Terror himself has trod a fairly comfortably set out path. Last year Planet Mu's Gremlinz retrospective put him on a footing with the label's post-IDM and dubstep roster, in the process establishing something like a canon, at least seen from a certain viewpoint. (Partly out of choice and partly due to licensing difficulties, the compilation ignores vocal takes in favour of telling his history strictly through instrumentals.)
Power Grid updates fans with eight tracks in Terror's current mode. The title cut's wild-pitched "mentasm" sounds and quick-cut breakbeats betray his past as a drum 'n' bass DJ. Moreover, they hint at a more fundamental connection to the techstep and neurofunk styles to which he must have been exposed in recent years, specifically their combination of ruggedness and refined engineering. 'Ride 4 Me', on the other hand, is an attractive descendent of his later experiments in “R 'n' G” – cooled-out grime, featuring singers such as Shola and Sadie Ama – and is arguably crying out for the same vocal treatment.
'Pulse' and 'Upton Lane' represent a new tangent, making a marriage with slightly kitsch inflections of synth-funk, quite different to Joker's rasping, dehumanised take. Opener 'Space Traveller' features prominently the tic common to most of these productions, aside from Terror's registered trademark of a gremlin-like cackle: namely a range of moist-sounding effects, organic but at the same time creepily artificial, like some unnerving species of bionic ear-worm.
As good as Power Grid is (very good) it's hard not to wonder why we aren't treated to any accompaniment by MCs of the same calibre. Is this decree of separation leading both parties towards an endpoint which forsakes grime's distinctive potential? With new doors opening, perhaps the arrangement is merely easier for everyone concerned. In any case, an encouraging note is sounded by promised vocal features for a forthcoming full album; and in the meantime, there's certainly nothing wrong with seeing Terror Danjah receive due props for this undoubted musical prowess.