Review Summary: A lush oasis in the desert of grime.
From its early popularity as the battlefield for MCs like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal to spit some of the most incendiary vocal tracks on to today's dark, instrumental aggression from young producers like Kahn, Wen, and Logos, grime music has typically remained harsh and abrasive. In many ways, that harsh, biting edge is what gives the genre its trademark sound. But recently, the genre has found new life from experimentation around its fringes – taking the visceral force of the square-wave electronics and injecting them into the heart of richly illustrated abstractions to create tracks that are able to exploit the genre's raw power without losing the ability to capture expressive textures.
“Fountains” is one of the loosest genre abstractions to date, and with such an informal outline of containment, it allows far greater room for vibrant coloration to fill in the space. Of course, this concept requires a creative mind for alluring aesthetics, and Strict Face appears to be somewhat of a visionary in his ability to create an oasis of saturated melodies. The track is almost entirely amorphous in its fluid form, with sparkling synth melodies reverberated spaciously around glowing chords that saturate the crystalline landscapes. Splashing droplets and watery slicks punctuate the track as well as the thumping 808 kicks and gleaming, liquid synth refractions. It's about as lush as a track is capable of being in any genre, and its loose attachment to grime makes its dreamy atmosphere even more essential as a standalone snapshot of a uniquely imagined world.
“Highbury Skyline” is much more firmly grounded and in turn less vividly captivating than its counterpart, but Strict Face's smooth rhythmic sensibilities provide another framework for free-flowing aesthetics to glide over effortlessly. If it wasn't following such a stunning piece it would be celebrated in a similar way. As it is, “Highbury Skyline” unfortunately comes across a bit too much like the more generic younger brother of “Fountains”, which is still a major accomplishment itself.