It’s not just that Finn and his mates throw house parties and bootleg each other’s tracks, it’s that a palpable cohesion exists within the Local Action family. With one vinyl-only single on the label, Yorkshire-born Finn is already an integral member of the collective, bringing the party north to his mate’s place in Hull and adding an incisive, youthful energy to the label side of things. “Keep Calling” wasn’t only a Boxed hit, it was a song, along with DJ Milktray’s “Hotel”, that resulted in a bout of nostalgia for the days of Blackjack and Iron Soul, bridging the gap between grime’s younger, Internet-supported producers and the slightly older cohort. Finn’s deejay sets have also begun to garner acclaim for their omnivorous nature and high energy, an energy that carries over in his past recorded mixes for the likes of Mixpak and LOGOS. And his Astral Plane mix is no different, a raw-as-hell mixture of ghetto house vinyl rips and dubs from Samename, Strict Face and a choice cut from Finn himself, drawing lines between crossover hits from Katie Pearl and ruff Chicago cuts from DJ Clent, Jammin Gerald, DJ Deeon and more. The two aesthetics do share a common BPM after all and while most DJs fall flat when trying to blend the two, Finn’s selections tend to excel. If you’re UK-based Finn will be playing out at the Boxed x Chow Down night in Manchester on March 6 and the Boxed 2nd Birthday in London on March 20.
If you’ve been following the Boxed massive on social media, listened in to any of the crew’s recent Rinse show, or attended one of their eponymous club nights in London, Yamaneko is likely household name; for everyone else, the London producer is a tantalizing obscure figure. Drawing on new age meditation music, grime-but-not-grime samples and a vivid spatial awareness, Yamaneko’s debut release, the Pixel Wave Embrace LP, has garnered support from a who’s who of prominent Anglophiles on either side of the Atlantic. Pixel Wave Embrace is also a Local Action release, a somewhat surprising step for Tom Lea’s dancefloor-centric (see: Finn, DJ Q, T.Williams) imprint, but one that fits in with the previous narrative established by Lil Jabba‘s Scales, Slackk‘s Palm Tree Fire and Shriekin‘s Gold And Featherwork. “Calotype Process” exhibits the beatific prowess of Yamaneko’s work, a punchy, bewilderingly flat reinterpretation/conflagration of Wiley’s respective eskibeat and devil mix styles, arguably his two longest lasting production innovations. Pixel Wave Embrace will be released in MP3 and cassette form on November 24 and can be pre-ordered here.
The precepts of sonic progression rarely go hand in hand with commercial success in the contemporary music industry, but since its establishment in 2010, Tom Lea’s Local Action Records has transformed from a promising, yet scattered, subset of London’s Phonica Records to a monolith in the UK underground and a constant reminder of how to properly release music. One side of the Local Action coin shows well-oiled house, garage and bassline releases from T. Williams and DJ Q, the essential backbone of the label alongside Throwing Snow and Artifact. The other side of the coin, the side that’s been facedown in a Lewisham (or Cicero) gutter, is represented by Slackk and Lil Jabba, renegades of grime and footwork and the artists that give Local Action its untrammeled edge. Lea’s curation is largely grounded in the aforementioned ‘nuum stylings, but a lucid listener can also unearth coherent strands of Timbaland, The Neptunes and The Heatmakerz (the production duo beyond some of Dipset’s most memorable hits). R&B is an obvious touchstone for DJ Q’s Louise Williams-assisted crossovers, but the minimal roots of early Timbaland productions are readily apparent in Slackk’s makeup and the austere, hypnagogic narcissism of The Neptunes is a recurring theme in Lil Jabba’s work. As label head, Lea does little to enunciate Local Action’s intentions via social media or in interviews, but through means of keeping a tight circle and superior A&R work, the outlet has become synonymous with the built environment of tasteful dance music.
With such an impressive cadre of releases to its name, it would be a simple assumption that Local Action is Lea’s main project, but the London-resident spends his days editing FACT and providing what are some of the most illuminating interviews and thought-provoking reviews in the whole damn game. He has inculcated himself in the shapeshifting Boxed crew (although he is not a resident) and allied with a number of “new school” grime producers including Finn (who’s Keep Calling EP dropped on LA earlier this month) and Inkke (who’s Crystal Children EP is also out now in digital form). Alongside Slackk, who is also a journalist, Lea can be viewed as a central beam in the recent grime revival, a reputation easily fomented courtesy of impeccable interviews (Her Records most recently), Rinse FM guest slots and bolstered by the recent commercial success of DJ Q’s Ineffable LP. It would be a stretch to point to Local Action as the sole harbinger of what’s to come out of the grime world, but it’s undeniable that Lea’s ear is firmly where the action is.
On September 1, the label will release Slackk’s Palm Tree Fire LP, the producer’s debut full-length and an ambitious project in that instrumental grime albums represent near-untouched territory. Most labels coming off a successful crossover album would never touch a full-length project from a non-commercial entity like Slackk, but the release represents the stringent EP to album progression Lea prefers as well as his willingness to stick with his guns through thick and thin. And one only has to look to Lil Jabba’s brash Scales LP, the label’s first footwork release, for a precedent for success in un-tread territory. Lea’s Astral Plane mix can be viewed as both an encapsulation of the disparate sounds that make up Local Action’s foundation and a sort of tastemakers delight, blending classic Bmore and contemporary club weapons with forthcoming label material. It’s an eclectic, genre-hopping mix that contrasts UK and American sounds as much as it draws lines between the two and even finds room for synth-enthusiasts and sometime-krautrockers Tangerine Dream. As head of FACT, Lea has lead the magazine in an admirable direction and his journalistic acumen is readily apparent in his A&R work with Local Action. Nonetheless, it’s his willingness to buck industry convention that has transformed the label into the monolith it is today.
After the earth shattering success of his debut Telo/Shiftin single in March, Gage has laid relatively low, contributing a volume to Truants’ “Functions of the Now” mix series and allowing “Telo” to percolate into ever-larger circles of influence. As far as the grime continuum goes, Gage fits somewhere between the sino abstractions of the Boxed collective and the minimal, driving techno of Mumdance and Pinch’s b2b effort for Tectonic. Gage’s productions are abrasive and dressed up in grime nomenclature, but also supremely worthy for the club in their composition and general affect. Gage’s latest effort, a remix contribution to Inkke‘s upcoming Local Action EP, balances both, applying sparse rhythm technology and bright, minor key melodic work in the same passage. Inkke’s Crystal Children EP is set for a July 21 release date and will also feature remix work from JT The Goon.
Listening to a remix sans knowledge of the original is always a fascinating venture, inciting wild speculation and undeniably shaping ones eventual listening experience. JT The Goon‘s remix of Inkke‘s “Paradise” has had a perplexing effect after several listens, falling on the more beauteous, melancholic side of both JT and Inkke’s spectrum while featuring a vocal performance new to both producers’ work. Splintering kicks enter the picture when needed, but the track functions as a sort of grime singer-songwriter fair, churning several short vocal bits from Julia Juban into a wandering, cinematic piece of pop futurism. How Inkke’s original sounds is almost impossible to consider in light of JT’s brilliance, but the song, which will appear on his upcoming Crystal Children EP for Local Action, is readily anticipated.
Since Slackk first burst into the general consciousness as a producer circa 2010, he has proven to be a figurehead of sorts in the instrumental grime movement and one of its foremost proponents as a co-founder of the Boxed club night. His solo productions have ranged from four-on-the-floor UK funky utilizing a classic eski sound palette to the black key heavy Minor Triads and Failed Gods EPs. On September 1, Slackk will release his debut LP on Local Action, titled Palm Tree Fire. “Ancient Dolphin” is the first offering from the tape and sees a refined version of his earlier funky/grime explorations. It’s ragged, richly melodic and a little campy. One of the most interesting facets of the Boxed crew’s output in the past year or so is the precise nature in which the dancefloor is understood and at times removed from the equation. “Ancient Dolphin” epitomizes that understanding, matching distinctly minor scale melodic work with chugging, syncopated drum work. It represents a lot of time spent playing out and subsequently taking that experience into the studio. It might not end up being the defining document of grime’s resurgence, but Palm Tree Fire has the opportunity to coherently draw the line between club, radio and home listening.
As a member of the Astral Black collective, Inkke has quietly become one of the most looked to producers in all of Britain, effortlessly grafting early 2000s hip hop, roughhewn grime and a distinct ‘nuum aesthetic into a singular entity. Whether it’s through his bootlegs, Memphis cassette explorations, or wildly inventive originals, the Glaswegian has garnered widespread support, so much support that his next EP will be released by Tom Lea’s Local Action Records. Set for a July 21 release date, the Crystal Children EP will feature six full-throttle originals as well as remixes from Gage and JT The Goon. The delectably swung “Thinkk Star (Club Mix)”, which actually first surfaced nearly a year ago on Slackk‘s Rinse show, is our first taste from Crystal Children and shows off some of Inkke’s best dance floor inclinations. Pre-order Crystal Children here.