This is the sixth instalment of Midnight Movement, a personal take on the attention-demanding club tracks being made, played and obeyed this month.
I often like to give this column a kind of theme, as it makes sense to give some kind of order to a tiny selection of a daunting amount of music (the second was African-related stuff and the fourth was all about WOMAD and Flow Festival). This month, it’s all about vocals, and I’ve almost entirely ignored house and techno for once. Follow the links for a open-mouthed trip through dancehall, cyborg R&B, the new club sounds of South Africa and some of the best grime MCs shouting out London, weed and… manga.
Swindle x D Double E – Lemon Trees
The London dubstep and grime funkmeister backs up the Newham Generals MC in this woozy, wavey paean to getting high. When he gets high, D Double says, he’s high like birds in the sky – a reference to his melancholy 2003 track produced by Jammer. The MC whose classic mic refrains include “bluku bluku” and “ooah ooah” is on fine, light-hearted form here, laughing in his unique, almost goofy voice about the details of his weakness for green, with Swindle’s G-funk hip-hop synths squealing and festival drums bubbling behind.
Jammz – It’s A London Thing ft. Scott Garcia
Here’s some grime that glances even further over its shoulder, sampling Scott Garcia’s 1997 speed garage classic of the same name, along with police sirens and that annoying bleep that comes out of your speakers when someone rings your phone. The riddim is produced by Jammz himself and cuts between the modern sound of trap-influenced grime and its twenty-year-old foundations; death star bass stabs, gun shots and sharp beats are expertly restrained and blended. Jammz’ lyrics are brilliant too, exploring the ebb and flow of this paradoxical city’s rough-edged recent history, from gang violence to the rent crisis. “So fuck these Conservative leaders ‘cause not one of them cares for the kids in the ends!”
AJ Tracey – Naila (Murlo Remix)
This has been kicking around for a few months as a free download but has just re-emerged on Elijah and Skilliam’s new compilation of the year’s best grime tracks for their Butterz label. Murlo’s compellingly discordant harmonies and blurring, whining bass tones are stripped back to allow rising star AJ Tracey’s bars to dominate in a chorus that makes not one but two references to Yu-Gi-Oh.
Percussion clatters like Bruce Lee attacking that coat hanger thing in Enter the Dragon in a physically dominating track reminiscent of 2006 Boy Better Know free-for-all Duppy in its bassline-grime crossover style. Listen to Elijah and Skilliam’s mini-mix that accompanies the compilation here.
D∆WN – Renegades
Dawn Richards is an alternative R&B singer from New Orleans who for the last couple of years has dabbled in dance music, from a collaboration with NYC’s Kingdom to a brilliant official remix last month by Murlo. The first single from her forthcoming album is produced by Machinedrum, a big old belter of Hudmo-style grinding brass and adrenal drum roll build-ups. When the breaks drop, they skip and skitter with touches of 2-step garage and Baltimore club.
Los Rakas - Move Ya Body Ft. Iamsu, HBK Skipper (Florentino Remix)
Los Rakas, not to be confused with South Rakkas Crew, are an American-Panamanian rap duo who have collaborated with Wiz Khalifa in the past. They’re remixed here by UK producer Florentino, yet another Murlo collaborator, with Colombian heritage who mixes Latin and Caribbean dance music like reggaeton, dembow and dancehall with more electronic UK influences into new, sweaty forms. He’s just done a FACT mix with tons of his own material.
This is a purring club tune that should send people straight to the floor – both as in rushing the dancefloor and dropping yourself low. Also check DA HOOLBOW for a 110bpm stomper that uses the same synths as DJ Jean’s hard house classic The Launch. Gotta be done.
Mr Mitch – Eiffel (Peace Edit)
On the subject of 1999 Eurodance classics, here’s a beatless grime remix of Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65 by Mr Mitch, another producer moving in the same waters, part of the recent current of emotive synthesiser music that springs from grime’s poignant melodic side. It’s a free download, so no arguing.
Yaroze Dream Suite – In the Moonlight Ft. Hannah Mack
Full of air and light, this is the new single from a collaborative project between the aforementioned Mr Mitch and Yamaneko a peer making delicate digital synth music. Mack’s vocals are stunning here, coursing fluidly through a crystal maze of fragile, blown-glass melody and high frequency flickers that pass for percussion – a slow motion moondance.
OKZharp & Manthe Ribane – Teleported
Kode9’s Hyperdub label is one of the most important of the 21st century for the way it has always pushed music to its cutting edge. It’s always invested heavily in stuff that reveals the way genre and rhythm has become ever more globalised and multiplied. This track is from the label’s second EP by South African-born Londoner OKZharp, formerly a member of LV, His second solo EP just dropped, again featuring Johannesburg vocalist and performance artist Manthe Ribane. Teleported whirrs in fully-charged, Ribane’s clipped and thrusting vocals in a South African language are spat through new rhythmic angles formed by the collision between a guttural square-wave bassline and fizzing UK funky snares. Mixing gqom (the dark, percussive new mutation of South African house) and sublow (the early subgenre of grime featuring low-frequency bass), this is as music at its most global and polyrhythmic – Hyperdub in a nutshell.
Kelly Lee Owens – CBM
More London music here with a different kind of global perspective: it’s purportedly inspired by ‘the overview effect’ whereby astronauts experience a cognitive shift while viewing Earth from a distance – the title stands for “Colours, Beauty, Motion.” KLO, meanwhile, is a producer and singer who also performed vocally to Daniel Avery’s brilliant Drone Logic album two years back. The minimal, druggy pulse and ethereal throb of CBM shares some of that album’s aesthetic, influenced by Belgian new beat, early acid and the kind of UK dance music that Underworld and the Chemical Brothers embodied going more mainstream.
Project 23 – 23
I usually start with something older or in some other way inappropriate for this column, but it’s just occurred to me that I should obviously put it at the end instead. This month’s curveball is a track from the 1996 album by Project 23, one of the world’s first live jungle bands, an underrated and influential collaboration between UK singer and MC Cleveland Watkiss, US drummer Marque Gilmore and DJ La Rouge.
Just as inspired by jazz and Detroit techno as hip-hop and jungle, I love the hydraulic machine-noise of the bass in this, and the fluidity of the rolling breaks and echoing, reverberating, looping samples and vocal effects. The group return to play a twentieth-anniversary live set at London International Arts Festival 2016 on Thursday 3 November.