Photo by Ollie Kirk
The idea of the collective has been irrevocably changed in an era defined by the constancy of online networks and the near-total saturation point of cheap mobile devices. Groups can coalesce around taste, identity, shared career goals or boredom, transitioning from isolation to a virtual communality within days or even hours. In the electronic music world, collectives emerge, impose their vision, grow exponentially and fall by the wayside with remarkable frequency, leaving only abandoned Soundcloud accounts and loose memories in their wake. There’s nothing wrong with this intensely digital approach of course — much of the most interesting music has come about due to fleeting online connections — but these outfits exist on an almost entirely different plane than what we might call a traditional collective like New York’s Qween Beat, London’s Night Slugs or Philadelphia’s ATM.
Based out of Leicester and London, Grade 10 certainly falls into the latter category, a cohort of musicians and visual artists bound by friendship, shared values and geography. Comprised of Prayer, Forever, Kollaps, 8Ball, Unslaved, Classic Coke, Loosewomen and Nokia Boys, Grade 10’s vision is regularly born out on their monthly Radar Radio show and at large-scale events like Outlook Festival in Pula, Croatia and a Radar Radio showcase at the Tate London. On first listen, a listener might be confused as to what ties the collective’s sprawling individual projects together, projects that have involved footwork, jungle, emotive instrumental grime, sun-kissed house music and sunken R&B manipulations since the launch of their label arm in July 2015, but they insist in interviews that it’s the personal connections and sheer amount of time spent together that ties the whole affair into a cohesive bundle.
Previous pieces in Dummy and The FADER have noted how important the monthly Grade 10 Radar Radio show is to the collective on both a personal and external level, an outlet for each respective artist to flaunt their skill-set, a regular slot to establish a visual aesthetic and an excuse for the crew’s Leicester-based members to regularly get down to London. It’s hard to disagree while listening through the archives of the regular show, each one seemingly showcasing a different assortment of the crew and, invariably, a different approach to genre, mixing and sound design that seems to unravel and expand into new sonic territory on every show. As for releases, Grade 10 will hit number six in its catalogue this Friday with Classic Coke’s GTi006, four enthusiastic footwork efforts that follow 12″ from Kollaps, Loosewomen, Prayer and Unslaved. When paired side-by-side with the haunting R&B vibes of a track like “Misery”, it might be difficult to see a tangible sonic connection between Loosewomen and Kollaps, but the Radar show tends to tie disparate ideas together, both in the context of the show’s two hours and the collective’s greater ethos.
The Grade 10 Astral Plane mix is a further distillation of that ethos, just under an hour’s worth of genre-hopping mixing and highlights from the crew’s quickly growing catalogue. Equal parts nostalgic and forward facing, the mix fits comfortably into a continuum of British dance music without bequeathing creative control to tradition, preferring to offer new offshoots of classic house and jungle sounds instead of wrenching the last bit of quality out of old formats. It’s hard to follow the paths of most web-based collectives, but Grade 10 make it easy for the casual observer, showing up at the Radar studio every month, putting out 12″ with regularity and maintaining a consistent level of artistic integrity and cohesion that defines their work in an era of dislocation.