The instrumental Grime scene is on fire at the moment with the likes of Slackk, Logos, M.E.S.H, and Kode9 blowing shit up. No longer tied solely to basement clubs and beefs between MCs, this second generation of Grime artists, if that scene is indeed what they’re part of, explore moodier territory and take listeners into far flung experimental places.
The man behind Visionist, Louis Carnell speaks of his battle with anxiety issues as the inspiration behind Safe which has caused numerous reviews to refer to the record as ‘dark’. This is completely unfair. Safe is a dreamlike experience bursting with disembodied voices cut and pasted into shimmering patterns. Illogical rhythms lope along the horizon of a landscape that is mind-meltingly surreal. All’s calm on the outside but things are unstable within.
Visionist’s point of difference is his uncanny ability to sample the human voice, dismember it and spice it with up with FX to create cryptic melodies. He sources these voices from YouTube clips and late night TV which makes things sound familiar and strange at the same time.
A track like Sin-cere boils this concept down to the barest of bones. Carnell dispenses with rhythm and spends four minutes constructing an alien refrain based on voices that intone ‘oh’ ‘e’ and ‘ah’. The samples are pitch shifted into an otherworldly presence, rife with reverb and ghosts. Not creepy, just mournful. Ghosts from a future filled with stainless steel and dying stars.
Other tracks pair scattered and bombastic bass rhythms with chipmunk voices akin to Jungle toons of the nineties. Snare drums shuffle and snap erratically, while the occasional jazz motif ups the mood a little. The album winds down with a watery track called Sleep Luxury, conjuring images of Carnell awake in the wee hours of the morning exhausted but struggling to sleep among thousands of anxious voices racing around his head. It’s a sound, and a vision that makes a lot of sense to me.