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Album Review: RL Grime – Void

3 min read

At the ripe old age of 23, Los Angeles bass wizard Henry Steinway has been making his fair share of noise, both in the conventional sense and EDM circles at large. With an impressive six EPs already under his belt (two of which as his side-project Clockwork), his brand of hypnotically ominous electronica has been on nothing but the up and up for the last couple of years and shows no sign of abating. As RL Grime (and yes, the name is inspired by author R.L. Stine, the mastermind behind ‘90s children’s horror series Goosebumps), Steinway has been kicking goals left and right for most of 2014 and his hotly anticipated debut album Void drops this month to let you know what all the fuss is about. Listener beware, you’re in for a scare…

RL Grime VoidThe record opens with the distant, foreboding bleeps of Always. It doesn’t exactly bloom into the typically American, bowel-churning trap for which Grime is best known, but surprisingly lands closer to the UK end of electronica. With echoes of post-dubstep pioneer Burial’s warped vocal samples and the skittish beats of Mike “The Streets” Skinner, it’s clear from the get-go that Void is going to be a pretty ambitious affair. German house legend Alexander “Boys Noize” Ridha lends a hand for the minimal, yet still explosive thumper Danger before current single Scylla mashes the climactic dynamics of Euro-house with the urgency of drum ‘n’ bass and the mammoth heft of dubstep’s all important “drop” to great effect.

As someone’s who’s demonstrably capable of handling most aspects of his sound himself, the guests that crop up on Void only serve to highlight Grime’s skills as a producer even further. Def Jam rapper Big Sean lets loose over the twisted middle-eastern vocals and heavyweight drum programming of Kingpin and fellow L.A. beatmaker Djemba Djemba’s contribution on the UK-jungle/dirty-south-hip-hop hybrid Valhalla sits so perfectly behind the beat with a swagger that’s hard to believe came from two skinny white guys.

Void’s second half is ushered in by the interlude Let Go that underscored the cinematic trailer released upon its announcement and its just-creepy-enough acceleration throughout segues perfectly into lead single Core. There’s little chance you haven’t come across it somewhere in the last 6 months and its bit-crushed foghorn synth hook and trademark dub-sirens tie together everything that’s great about this record, and everything that has gotten Grime to his current, poised-to-dominate-the-globe position.

Without question, one of the album’s highlights has to be second single Reminder featuring Chicago indie-R&B star Tom Krell aka. How To Dress Well. Marrying the layered, percussive cadences of Michael Jackson and the raw sensuality of The Weeknd, his incredible range positively soars over Steinway’s impeccably understated production. The bourgeoning, almost-8-minute odyssey of Site Zero/The Vault is similarly sparse, waxing and waning with an amazing dynamic control before the throbbing bass and over-caffeinated drums of the Aphex-Twin-ish Julia.

Wrapping up with the piercing synth screams and driving precision of Golden State, Void is a pretty damn impressive debut from someone so enviably young. Just as adept on his own as he is in collaboration mode, RL Grime’s first full-length album is a comprehensive introduction to the myriad of different tastes, technologies and talents in his possession and will undoubtedly continue to see his star deservedly rise.