Monday, December 20, 2004

"Don't check me with no integer beats…"

Why "grime?"

It could have been any one of a handful of terms - sublow, eski, 8bar or eastbeat - but in 2004 garage's hottest hybrid has somehow firmly inherited the name "grime."

The scene itself still isn't comfortable with a term that was imposed upon them by the very 2step "godfathers" who had excluded them. The term had implied, negative associations from the outset, defined by an absence of warmth, not the presence of anything. DJs like Matt Jam Lamont and EZ proclaimed they "don't play any of that grimey garage." And that was that.

But personally I've come to love the term. Compare it with the tediously dry and functional "drum & bass." Surely pretty much every black music form, ever could be covered by "drum" and "bass," especially if someone had lent Robert Johnson some instruments? So too by "r&b" aka rhythm & blues, so broad a term they've used it twice.

Grime, when you think about it, is fiercely evocative. It's all dirt and evolutionary ooze, compressed London sounds set to infinite urban delay/decay.

Sit on the overland train from Highbury and Islington to Hackney and you'll see grime. Homerton station is the best: harrowing disintegrating towerblock being choked by green repair-netting to the right, bomb struck once-terraced house rubble to the left. Beyond Hackney Wick is a no-mans-land before Stratford station looms. Derelict canals choke with luminous green algae on one side. Disused factories like rotting urban skeletons on the other.

Yet these scenes are so much more inspirational than the more celebrated parts of London. Head into the (nearby) City, around Bank tube or Liverpool St station, and it's just miles of geometric line and planes, sterile surfaces and granite culture-repelling defences. Street after street of dehumanised data stores, installed to divide money into either ones… or zeros. It’s a lifeless, futuristic techno citystate… that no one actually lives in.

Nah, for inspiration, give me the grimey bits of London anytime. There's no straight lines and precision points, no rules or laws, no clean streets, no absolute black nor white. Instead values somewhere between quantized zero and ones apply (though if you measured them, they'd only change…). This is some glorious fertile middleground, found between the gaps.

In grimey, shithole areas like Hackney, Whilehouse and Bow grew Dizzee and Wiley, Trim and Scratchy, Riko and Target. Producers like Wonder and P-Jam now compose vital atonal jams, with notes that fall between the traditional scales. Like Chantelle always says, "shit makes the best fertiliser." Alongside all the desolate metallic train tracks grow intense purple flowers.

Humans are greater than the sum of our parts. A bucket of water, salt, protein, DNA, RNA etc combined does not create life. We evolved, not in a vacuum or on the surface of the sun, but out of a primordial bubbling side-pond. So did grime.

PS And people still can't see dubstep and grime are cousins! Tcha!


Lee Manikk said...

HA! Homerton has long been my visual definition of 'grime'.

glenn-medeiros said...

really interesting blog entry about the term grime. i like your blog a lot. im glad its on the net. however, one thing i find weird about grime, is that on a lot of grime mixtapes, grime tracks sound crystal clear, not quite glossy but incredibly clean. surely that isnt what grime should be?! i mean, lethal b's fwd isnt that grimy as far as sonics.

maybe im missing something.

Luke said...

rosebay willowherb is the name of the flowers by the train tracks.

a lot of the wild flowers in east london are immigrants, stow-aways on ships when the docks were still working that colonised the surrounding area.

Blackdown said...

actually i think they might be buddleia...

Luke said...

heh! yeah, they're the big massive bushes. the flowers are tiny and arranged in big cones. butterflys love them. rosebay willowherb is the more flowery looking one with the amazing smell.

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