Bradley ‘CKtrl’ Miller’s INDi mixtape, his most extensive work to date, is as welcome a dose of summer as the sunshine that has finally decided to grace the UK this past month. Although a part of me was wishing his productions would return to the style of those more dubstep/grime inclined records that tore apart his Boiler Room debut back in 2012, Miller has moved on from those sounds, and there is a blatant maturity in this progression.
It is incredibly hard for independent artists these days – with the saturation of online music and the decline in grassroots venues – to understand and grow their following. Miller lamented this in our interview with him back in January. What is surprising about INDi, then, is that for its majority Miller selflessly places an array of up and coming singers in the limelight, giving them space to blossom. The tracks are spacious, with sparse percussion and shades of R&B.
There are some incredibly heartfelt vocals on the tape; Marti’s fragile voice is complimented brilliantly by the fluctuating and strained highs of Miller’s clarinet on ‘Summer’, and cradled by the vast sub in ‘Blossom’. Miller’s sister Elle’s distinct south London accent shines through on her tracks ‘More of Me’ (previously unreleased from the Boiler Room in 2012) and ‘Roses’, giving them an imposing sincerity. The brevity of ‘Roses’, at first a disappointment, in fact makes her words all the more cutting to us as listeners – “when the last bell floats to the floor you’ll still be the beast/ you’re the type who can’t let go…” – we are also reluctant to hear her go.
Incidentally it’s the interludes and hidden tracks at the end of songs that are the mixtape’s unexpected gems. ‘Colour’ is the only full length instrumental track – a signature Miller club flex à la ‘Azula’. The rest are pockets wherein we get a glimpse of Miller’s musical breadth. Follow him on Instagram and you’ll occasionally see a glimpse of his pride and joy – the saxophone and clarinet. Prior to this release, my favourite cut of his was ‘dolphy’, which has a clarinet solo that binds the track together. Similarly, at the end of ‘Blossom’ the familiar militant snare of the mixtape is accompanied by an oozy sax that melts its final seconds.
INDi meddles with the R&B dynamic a lot more than I think some may have expected, judging from Miller’s previously released work. The ample space he gives his collaborators shows a maturity in his understanding of his role as producer, but occasionally you feel his own musical prowess has taken a backseat in favour of accommodating each of their individual styles. Nevertheless, it is an engaging mixtape that is ripe for the end of summer, and with the undulating nature of the tape’s hidden tracks and interludes, you’re likely to uncover something new with each listen.
INDi is out now, buy it here.
Words: Joe Mills