A while ago I did a blog on instrumental CDs, just after the release of 'Nocstrumentals'. The instrumental CDs just keep coming and, nearly six months on, Silencer's released 'Run The CD', Swindle 'Curriculum Vitae', Dexplicit has put his 'Content' series up for digital download and arguably the most anticipated of the lot saw a physical release last Monday - Maniac's 'New Age Grime'.
To be honest, I only decided to write this after listening to Maniac's Ouch, which is just brilliant. His CD starts off with the familiar in Ugly, for me one of his best ever beats, and also finishes familiarly with Thug and Headshot, which have been all over the airwaves for the last six months. But in between are quite a few beats that have kept on a low in the run up to this release, like Boiler and Evil Dead.
Silencer's was a little different, catering to the CD crowd after releasing the first eight beats from Run The CD on vinyl and digital download previously. His Wow Base series has been a highlight in a flailing grime vinyl market, but his emphatic style of production, with bangers such as Dirtbag, Regulation and Mr. T, make this a collection of beats on CD copy.
Swindle's Cirriculum Vitae exhibits the producer's trademark - a mellow, 'musical' sound, which seems to give the CD more of a flow in relation to the others. While Swindle's productions get played by the likes of Spyro and other radio DJs, his beats here are more recognisable from their vocals. With different moods on here, from the down-and-out feel of The Rat to the bubbly Swaggeristic, Curriculum Vitae is a well-rounded release that provides something different within the scene.
Dexplicit continues to clear the cupboards, his latest volume of 'Content' having tunes such as Fireboy, Steamtrain and its VIP version. With other editions having beats like Hench and the Bizzle-vocalled Blood Nine, 'Content' is a series of bangers that anticipates his album 'Digikenesis', which should be about soon.
With Maniac set to release another CD, Dot Rotten's next batch of 'Rotten Riddims' forthcoming and Dexplicit planning to release five instalments with ten beats each in his 'Content' series, instrumental releases are a growing trend. Yet as back-catalogues become more available and the archives are cleared, the resultant blanker canvas allows the instrumental CD to adopt a new position.
Production duo Balistiq Beats, fresh off the back of their Power Cut Riddim with vocals from the likes of Shizzle, Badness, Riko, Doctor and Trim, as well as collaborations with Jammer on Make a Hit and Wiley with Headbanger, have an instrumental album waiting in the wings that could take the format into a direction that hasn't yet been fully realised.
Andrew, one half of the duo, explains:
To be honest, both of us just decided that would be the direction we'll take for our own release. There are a lot of good CDs out there but we just feel like the majority of them are just a mish-mash of tunes with no real thought behind them.
And from Ryan:
It has to be a musical journey, otherwise, why is it an album in the first place? Albums, to me, should be concept-based (and) because this will be instrumental, the music will have to speak for itself. Therefore it will have to be more expressive on its own.
So perhaps this could herald a new chapter for the instrumental CD in grime?
Ryan: Grime is HUGE, look at the charts, look at YouTubes top viewed videos. Now is the time to show what we're all about, from every angle. So, regarding the future of instrumental albums, it's nothing new - look at Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Massive Attack, Prodigy, Calvin Harris, Chase n Status etc - the majority is music based. Granted they do have some vocals (which is just an instrument anyway), but they let their music be the forefront, which is how it should be if you decide to do an album. What we're doing is bringing that same angle to the Balistiq brand. Compositions, arrangements, sections, key changes.. listen to George Benson's Breezin', Miles Davis playing Michael Jackson's Human Nature or any Joe Hisaishi composition. It takes you to another place - let the music move you!
Andrew: When proper albums are made you can listen to them from top to bottom and feel the continuity as you go along. Obviously within the grime scene it's more of a mixtape thing and the target audience just wanna hear bangers so that's probably why CDs come out the way they do. Big up everyone who's doing this ting though, because they're all good in their own way. Everyone is different, they got different ideas so with our one this is the direction we wanna take.
As the instrumental CD becomes a more permanent fixtre in grime, perhaps producers may feel more obliged to release these products now and in the future?
Andrew: It's not even a feeling of obligation that's making us do this. We've done stuff in the past with a number of MCs and a lot of other work outside of the grime scene, but now this is gonna be about us. We're aiming to make this something you can put on your iPod and on your way to college/uni/work listen to the whole ting from start to finish and just appreciate the music for what it is. We're known mostly for our grime productions and we'll always be a part of that scene, but this CD will reach out to people outside of that - people who know of us for different reasons, who've heard the other side of our work.
Ryan: We've worked with so many people in many different genres so it'll be good to showcase our diversity. We have actually built our music so we have no obligations, making it so we have free will to do whatever we want, when we want - it's not a job, it's a passion. That's something we will make sure gets through.
Right now, it's the producer's time.
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