Mumdance & Logos Proto

[Tectonic; 2015]

Styles: UK continuum, weightlessness
Others: M.E.S.H., Visionist, Jam City

I’d be skipping an integral factor in the importance of this record if I didn’t bring up Logos’s Cold Mission and Mumdance’s Twists and Turns, the pair’s most favorably received releases. Both used very different methods (and formats) to deconstruct and re-imagine the worlds of instrumental grime in a manner unlike anything that preceded them. Logos’s effort, firing the genre’s token elements — offbeat hi-hats, saw synths, and almost comically violent samples into a deep-space voyage — owed less to Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, and more to the future-leaning “bass” and techno of Night Slugs and its sleeper-hit, Jam City’s Classical Curves. On the other hand, Mumdance’s transitional mixtape seemed to revel in the kind of rough, alien club environment it had built up, only to unexpectedly peak with the shockingly beautiful “Amiga 500,” featuring a synthesized choir guiding a(n unknown) vocal around a ghostly deliberation on the merits of the synthesizer as a tool for expression, for communication. Both this track and Logos’s “Limitless” mix of his not-as-weightless “Atlanta 96” hinted not only toward abstractions of harmonic and melodic motifs as key to their creations, but also toward a new frontier — of what could be done within the confines of a previously stale scene, one that had seemed to have already had its time.

But it may appear that the sweeping undercurrent of new “grime” has reached the kind of peak that its fellow UK styles in jungle and dubstep reached before their inevitable disintegration, or more appropriately, mutation. Those who invigorated this resurgence with “outsider” perspectives — i.e., those with experience in worlds beyond the previously insular and UK-dominated scene — have led grime away from not only its more obvious sonic triggers, but also the genre-specific concepts of form, atmosphere, and perhaps most importantly, space. It’s possible that the bubble of cold weightlessness is on the brink of bursting and evaporating into the ether.

For example, from New York-via-Kuwait-via-Senegal, Fatima Al Qadiri’s Genre-Specific Xperience and Desert Strike EPs masterfully twisted both her own experiences and the signposts of style into something surreal and perplexingly beautiful, if darkly violent and erotic. Last year’s Asiatisch saw her adopt an outsider mentality wholeheartedly in a restrained and deadpan summation of an imagined “Asia” through her bizarre reworking of Kode9’s style-tag, “sino-grime.” However, her efforts in Future Brown — alongside fellow grime enthusiasts (albeit L.A.-based, as opposed to UK-drawn) Nguzunguzu and Lit City Trax’s J-Cush (swinging out from NYC) — hint at a new genre “xperience” that assimilates sino-grime into a bass-heavy amalgamation of trap and hip-hop that includes more “non-Western” elements.

Then there is Jam City. All three of the tracks leading up to his “politically charged” Dream A Garden album take the significant step of distilling his idiosyncratic soundworld (one mimicked, pastiched, and reworked by countless others who fail to capture the magic of a “How We Relate To The Body”), jolting them from their natural, if unsettling, position as techno-grime hybrids and sliding them smoothly into a post-punk-leaning pop dimension, just as surreal and DIStopian. And in a similar move — but in a drastically different direction — former label-mate Egyptrixx’s splintering from the Night Slugs periphery and venturing into an even more extreme blown-out gray area with Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power] suggests that the renowned “futuristic” sound of Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990s golden goose is set to suffer the same fate as those who attempt to foresee what is to come with the perspective of those operating today.

Why am I subjecting you to this protracted discourse on the evolution of style and those who define it? Because it’s in the very essence of Proto — Logos and Mumdance’s debut album together — that one can see two individuals with not a passing intrigue or a misguided attempt at genre fusion, but a deep history with and affinity for the sounds of the UK’s electronic music history — bleep, hardcore, jungle, dubstep, and the endless zones these genres continue to explore to this day. The pair doesn’t approach this music from an internet-gleaned perspective, but from immersion: this isn’t a “grime” album any more than it is a jungle or hardcore album.

While Proto shares many things in common with Cold Mission and Twists and Turns, there are striking facets on the whole that differ it as much from those works as they do from each other. It’s true that two tracks from Proto previously appeared on and are integral parts to the flow of Mumdance’s mix, but their framing in each release is quite different. This album, a glorified “collection” of tracks, shows both producers in the deep end of their club-ready mode. “Chaos Engine” and “Move Your Body” play like otherworldly abstractions-turned-club reflections on hardcore’s evolution into jungle, an impression of a proto gray area. In contrast, “Legion’s” blunt-drops into eski-purgatory hint at grime’s more radical factions of the “first-wave,” less PlayStation 1’s charming naivety and more PlayStation 4’s haunting clarity, perfection, coldness.

But it’s not as if Proto is a product of contemporary construction — the hiss of tape, distortion, awkward clips, and tempo imbalances dot the album, tell-tale signs of Mumdance’s insistent use of the drum machines that were responsible for the original output of 90s artists. If these devices prohibit the duo from enjoying the kind of limitless digital space that others take as a luxury, one that affords the brilliant sound design of M.E.S.H. or the architecture of Jam City, it does lend them another creative advantage: the propensity to rely upon intuition, honed selection, a sense of cruciality to their approach. It’s a step that doesn’t seem to sit on the bench for either side of a digital vs. analog dichotomy, as the duo’s music sounds less human and tangible than their Janus or Night Slugs counterparts.

It’s on the title track that Mumdance and Logos demonstrate the real impact of their stop-start, somewhat weightless creations, where the 808 hi-hats of Cold Mission skirt around a twisting obscene mess of something alien and screeching. A brutally filtered and rewound breakbeat pounds over icy chords, while a piercing string line shimmers above the uncompromising revelry. It’s hard to believe that it works so well, even harder considering that the pair imagined these elements as logical companions, the kind of oddities that Metalheadz or early hardcore (and its limited technology) would inspire.

And the visceral grit of the UK’s earlier voyagers does seem an integral part of Mumdance and Logos’s vision. This isn’t revisionary disassembly like Lee Gamble’s (phenomenal) Diversions 1994-1996 or backwards-gazing euphoria like Millie & Andrea’s Drop the Vowels. Proto delves far deeper into the colder, heavier parts of the UK’s continuum, no way inclined toward protracted distancing. Instead, it smashes down the door and drags you to the club. On “Hall of Mirrors,” a nightmarish, kaleidoscopic, jagged banger, the duo presents perhaps the perfect summation of its united sound: something equal-parts infectious and bizarre, one that hides the subtle tricks of its construction beneath its violent surface — unnoticeably complex and deceptively simple.

Perhaps the utility of Proto as a collection of “future-facing club tracks” doesn’t lend it the same kind of wonder that, say, Cold Mission or Classical Curves have coursing through their entirety. But what is most compelling about Logos and Mumdance’s methods and their very much apparent philosophies is how well they synthesize the (usually) problematic constraints and borders of genre and style, compacting them and re-shaping them into something fascinatingly unique. If it does emerge that Proto is the prototypical slip for futuristic-leaning instrumental grime into a self-destructive cycle — for the second time around — it’s certainly no emblematic slouch; it holds up exceedingly well, despite comparison to the works that surround and inform it. And with Mumdance’s collaborative efforts with Novelist and Logos’s distant, alien touches gracing the works of M.E.S.H., the intertwining of past and present has a very bright future.

Links: Mumdance & Logos - Tectonic

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