Imagine a vast future, where humans and Cyborgs live together in harmony. Where androids really do dream of electric sheep, and we’ve rebuilt a colourful metallic world after mass destruction. The soundtrack to this utopia might be Palm Tree Fire.
The Grime scene has eluded me for the most part. I love the spiked psychosis of Dizzee Rascal’s first record, and I’ve flirted with Wiley (did someone say mainstream?) but overall the genre’s focus on shouty and gruff MCs hasn’t really appealed to me. Especially when shaken up over 8-bit melodies and tinny beats.
However, Slackk does away with pretty much everything I know about Grime. He emphasises instrumental toons, atmosphere and experimentation. Rhythm is suggested through sub-vibrations, percussive melodies, and skittering snare patterns rather than pounding bass drums. He generates the jerky and sputtering momentum of military parades, South American dance, and musique concrete. Think Logos, but brighter. Atmospheric, but uplifting.
While listening to Palm Tree Fire I’m consistently reminded of Radiohead’s Airbag, the oddly structured opener to OK Computer. Like that song, many of Slackk’s compositions compile clashing elements to create something whole. Millipede does this particularly well using erratic high-hats and hand claps, which barely support a staccato bass line playing tag-team with a just-out-of-key melody. As the track progresses a synth chimes in with semi-tones un-synced from everything else, before eventually catching up with the main rhythm. As he introduces further electronic flourishes the piece begins propelling itself into a groove not present when the track kicks off.
The vibe of Palm Tree Fire says party but the compositions are too abstract for conventional DJ mixes. Tracks end and begin abruptly, but somehow segue into each with enough precision to keep you onboard the journey. The effect is dreamlike. Slackk’s music swirls around in endless reams of repetition, spiralling towards Zen. But nothing is organic in his world, every sound is pure electronica, or a crisp imitation of reality (like the bamboo flute on Three Kingdoms). This gives Palm Tree Fire an oddly futuristic edge, like the sound track to a bright future, perhaps in some other solar system, where the machines haven’t taken over and we all smile happily at each other after teleporting to the dance floor at Slackk’s London club night, Boxed. Nice, inn’it?