Grime guru Mr Mitch turns to footwork to produce a debut loaded with hooks and catchy choruses… that somehow aren’t there
‘Parallel Memories’ has been billed as “instrumental grime”, a prospect that thrills me about as much as Wayne Rooney singing in a pub with Ed Sheeran. The last thing grime needs is to be stripped of its attitude, its humour, its bad-boy swagger. I would have happily ignored it, but crafty Mr Mitch signed a deal with IDM label Planet Mu and unleashed the jaw-dropping vocal attack of ‘Don’t Leave’.
Planet Mu took a risk when they threw themselves into the skittering minimalism of footwork, a genre more to do with Chicago dance battles than shaven-headed tokers in bedroom studios. Mitch is not a footwork artist, but it’s in the context of his footwork label-mates RP Boo and Traxman that ‘Parallel Memories’ should be considered; in the context of their trilling snares and solitary rimshots, and the clouds of echoing space that dominate their music.
Take ‘Intense Faces’, the third track here. It sounds like a heroin-saturated Sonic the Hedgehog gazing up at golden rings in a foggy daze. The analogue melody barely troubles the percussive clicks, its purpose to merely echo rather than to punctuate. The tune on ‘Sweet Boy Code’, an edit of Mr Mitch’s remix of Dark0’s ‘Sweet Boy Pose’, is barely present and the embodied “last night” refrain sounds lonely and longing. ‘And Feel (Don’t Ask)’ is all about what he leaves out, the silence unthreatened except for a degree of complexity in the last section of the track.
There lies the genius of ‘Parallel Memories’. It bursts with hooks and catchy choruses that simply aren’t there. The half-harmonies and nasty basslines are reigned in so much, your brain fills in the rest. Snarky scrapes and single drum pads stand cold and alone. ‘Afternoon After’ has 16 kick beats in the whole song: I counted them. What you’re left with is a long-player that is deceptively drizzled in melody, that hooks you in with a kind of desolate emotion.
There is the machismo too: aggressive head beats and bombastic barks to stop any Guardian journalist calling it “crepuscular”. Some tracks go nowhere and Mitch’s apparent reliance on pre-set sounds can come across as more low-effort than lo-fi. But just listen to the 80s melancholia of ‘Wandering Glaciers’, the tooting staccato of the brilliant ‘Denial’, or Flying Lotus channelling Portishead on ‘Fly Soup’.
Wayne Rooney really did sing with Ed Sheeran. And to think that more people will remember that than this brave debut album.