Endgame Flesh

[Hyperdub; 2016]

Styles: tresillo, grime, dancehall
Others: Kamixlo, Moro, Elysia Crampton, Linkin Park

Endgame’s beats have an inherent, essential quality to them. There’s a visceral pleasure in the intricacy of his rhythms, the way they’re layered, sitting up just right in order to ricochet flawlessly off one other. Due to their rhythmic complexity, his tracks can take a while to sink in, requiring multiple listens to unpack, but when they hit, they hit hard: Endgame deals almost exclusively in club anthems. Across EP’s for Golden Mist, Purple Tape Pedigree, and now Hyperdub, Endgame has perfected a beguiling mix of grime, dancehall, and tresillo that’s unmistakably his — a melodic, contoured sound. Flesh is his most confident batch of tracks to date, a study in how rhythm works on and through the body. It’s intimate and inviting, a set of tunes for the Savage dancer, gracefully poised between skin and chrome.

First track “Felony Riddim” lurches forward, carried by a hypnotic melody, murky bass hits, and a grime-indebted sense of negative space. Endgame’s use of space is tightly allied to his drum production. Percussion is often employed texturally, shaping the spaces in which these tracks operate, producing lacunae to be exploited and explored. Snares cascade into synth and bass, stretching the tracks’ material and imbuing them with a verticality and depth. Atmospheric elements, like “Sitting Ere Redux’s”1 police sirens, undergird the constructions, eliciting feelings of paranoia, yearning, anticipation. The tracks compel themselves ceaselessly forward, buoyed by the productive differences between deep bass and vertiginous melody, swaying and sighing.

Flesh is also notable for the clarity and intelligence of its production. There are no superfluous sounds: each element of these four tracks has been worked over for maximum efficacy in the dance. Listen to those treated chimes on “Fallen” or how hard that drum cracks on “Toxic Riddim” and know. Endgame’s production chops enable him to play with the dynamics of his sound, hollowing it out on the aforementioned “Fallen” — all icy synth and stuttering drums — featuring vocals from Organ Tapes. Endgame has worked with vocalists before, to devastating effect, and is happy to be led: slowing the track down, upping its emotive quotient, and creating space for Organ Tapes’s double-tracked, slurring vocal style. The collaboration has that frisson characteristic of felicitous meetings between club tracks and pop structures, in which both forms are bent into exciting new shapes.

There’s a lot going on in these tracks — texturally, rhythmically, melodically — but it’s to Endgame’s credit that they never feel onerous. Instead, they’re nimble and forceful, kuduro-like in their intuitive balance and percussive maximalism. As the title indicates, Flesh is immanent music, situated at the basic level of being-in-the-world, music to make you “cry, turn up, or both.”

1. A reworking of Dizzee Rascal’s original that plays hopscotch with its melody.

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