Sinogrime

Snow pressed into pavements…Silhouetted trees Sugar-frosted railings and fences…Oil rainbows on slushy roads…People shuffling to work buried in scarves and thick coats…Commuter trains creaking toward the capital…Sinogrime in the headphones.

If ever there was a perfect time for listening to Sinogrime, then this morning was it. Now if you have never heard that term before, you’re not the only one. I wasn’t familiar with it until I read this excellent blog by Dan Hancox. In it, Dan defines Sinogrime as a subgenre consisting mainly of 2002-3 productions by key Grime players such as Jammer, Terror Danjah and Wiley. These well-known instrumentals had stark, plucked melodies, skittish drums and brash basslines, evocative of the Far East.

Just as RZA had sculpted the Wu Tang sound from Kung-Fu soundtrack samples, the aforementioned beat makers hacked away at Zen meditation CD’s and film scores in search for similarly cold, deadpan riddim. Not only did Sinogrime, as Hancox eloquently put it, refract the “millennial promise of a new superpower”, but more-importantly I think, it aligned a burgeoning British urban genre with Wu Tang’s already infamous sound and revolutionary ethos.

Wu Tang forever changed Hip Hop with their lo-fi ASR-10 drum kits and brutal, street-based lyricism that manifested the social and economic constraints they faced. Their music was a cold, emotionless threat that snatched attention from the West Coast and brought it back to New York City’s projects. In the New York City metropolis, G-Funk didn’t translate – it’s warm, bass-heavy sonics were made for Cadillac’s and parties, not the tinny headphones of a street-based Brooklynite or a boom box in the Bronx.

Arguably, a similar parallel can be drawn between Garage and Grime. Sinogrime, however fleeting as a subgenre, made a similar statement of intent. It said the bubbly raves were over. All that was left was the cold reality of Blair’s Britain. Framed within the communist bleakness of the Orient, the mournful brass melody of Jammer’s ‘Thug’ (the first beat on Kode9’s mix below) rings out like a funeral march – not only for those living in barren council estates across Bow and the like, but for Garage music itself. Broadcast over tinny pirate radio frequencies, beats like this were a kind of death toll to good times past.

Even though the Grime sound has since moved on, those same Sinogrime principles exist today. As we face another year of discontent, I suggest Grime music curb its flirtation with other genres and tap into these deadening sounds once again. Not only would it offer new, expressive and musical ideas from within, bolstering Grime’s own artistic nuances, the results would also prove fitting for Winter settings like those outside today.

Kode9’s Sinogrime mix for Dan Hancox & Lower End Spasm Blog here.

Kristian

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