It is no surprise that I am a big fan of Grime music. The immediacy, the tenacity, the attitude. Yet upsettingly, it all too often becomes sterile for me; producers laying back on their laurels and producing the same repetitive 16 bar loops, using the same noises (the current conquest of 2013 - the 808. Find something else, already!). MC’s relying on the same battle-worn bars or just reducing themselves to amateurish name-calling. So when labels like Butterz, or Harddrive, come along, they offer something altogether more interesting, more vital to the scene. When producers like Swindle come along, they rip up the rule book altogether.
Ever since first hearing him on Planet Mu’s Airmiles EP, his brand of funk-laden dubstep/grime was arresting; there was a weight there, through the volcanic drums and serrated basslines that, tonally, would not have been out of place on, say, a Caspa record; yet there was a subtlety to it, slight nuances in the instrumentation and the intelligent chord structures that suggested a real musical aptitude.
Fast forward 3 years, and a lot has changed; after being fully enveloped into the Butterz family, he eventually released his latest album, Long Live The Jazz, on Mala’s Deep Medi (with whom he also plays keys for on his ‘Cuba’ outings). Those earlier forays in 140bpm territory have been fully fleshed out, a newfound confidence to not just craft heavy club bangers, but to imbue them further with his own funk and jazz leaning ideas - from the sporadic use of talkbox and funky guitar throughout, to the full horn and string sections.
This was a pleasant revelation during the album too; the number of tracks that relied so little on ‘the drop’, but rather expanding his substantial sound palette and showcasing his experienced musical and technical skills. The piano playing at the end of the Sam Frank featuring It Was Nothing is jazzy and meditative without being banal. When I Fly, a particular highlight, uses female vocals and that Zapp-style talkbox to craft a real R’n’B groove-laden jam, shouting out his collaborators and associates towards the latter half of the track. Fitting somewhere between G-Funk and dubstep, it’s a testament to his skill that leans towards the funk innovators of the past whilst always pushing forward.
This is not to say he’s gone and mellowed out his sound either - quite the opposite. Kick It, featuring the vocal talents of The Milk, had one of the gnarliest bass grunts I’ve enjoyed in a track in a while. In an era where the crop of EDM/dubstep hybrids is obsessed with throwing walls of unlistenable sonic noise at you, a dirty bassline that still has some form of groove to it is a joy to behold. Start Me Up offers equally striking synths, undercut sporadically with choppy live bass; his ability to mix colourful electronic sounds alongside organic flavours really sets him apart from the rest of his peers.
It is unsurprising, then, that his debut live show was such a hyped up event. The traditional ‘live’ set for an electronic artist will be centered around a laptop and a lightshow, the intricacies of such live manipulations hidden behind LED screens and fireworks. But not Swindle; arriving on to the stage at Fire in Vauxhall, bedecked in a suit (a far cry from the snapbacks that filled the packed room), he sits down behind an array of pianos and keyboards. Von D, another talented dubstep producer, takes his seat next to him behind the drums. A three piece brass band takes stage right. They collectively rip through the album tracks and old favourites, including a particularly raucous take on the classic Mood Swings. The talkbox is used in abundance. Terri Walker takes the stage for a stunning, soulful rendition of Running Cold. Tracks are twisted apart and given new life by the live players. As confetti rains down on the band and the crowd, he pulls out a keytar at the end for Last Minute Boogie, and it’s an audaciously perfect move. Swindle is taking what artists like George Clinton did in the past, and reappropriating it for the 21st century. Come on, yell it with me: Long live the jazz!