The striking artwork of Houston-based producer Rabit’s new EP calls to mind classic renderings of American life past but with tranquillity replaced by chaos. This offers something of a clue to the music within, which evokes Ferguson and the burning of the American South as much as it does UK Grime. Above anything else Rabit is making the personal political: ‘Baptizm’, from the warped Christianity of its title to its brazenly religious themes of ‘destruction and regeneration’, speaks to his experience as a gay man from a Catholic background. It’s in that context that his ties to Mumdance and Logos’ Weightless movement make the most sense: at the heart of that music are contradictions which reflect Rabit’s own personal turmoil.
The religious overtones are almost made explicit on opener ‘Imp’, which I find myself wanting to refer to as a ‘piece’ rather than a track, even at just two and a half minutes. It’s eerie and quite lovely, which makes lead track ‘Bloody Eye’ all the more jarring when it punches its way in. Here, Grime’s signature gunshots feel serious rather than playful, a reminder of real and present danger as they cut through effects that sound more like the cinema-shaking noise at the denouement of every intergalactic Summer blockbuster.
‘Hex’ skips along like classic Bow-bred instrumentals of yore but feels a million miles away from the genre’s bedroom production era, immaculately put together and all too disquieting for the rave. It’s the ‘Woooo Riddim‘ in suspended animation, or after it’s seen some things, and it’s difficult to imagine Riko Dan stunting in patois over it. Closer ‘Straps’ is all-consuming, Rabit balancing an industrial-strength barrage with a genuine sense of dread. It is, truth be told, entirely unpleasant, if artfully done. That noisenik contemporary Arca should approve is unsurprising, although for all the talk of Arca collaborator Kanye West biting Grime on his forthcoming LP it’s hard to imagine anything like this hitting the supermarket shelves.
The music on ‘Baptizm’ alternates between hanging in the air and pummelling the air out of you, sharing the latter trait with the work of fellow Texan and Tri Angle signee Lotic (Rabit has performed at Janus, the infamous night run by Lotic and cohorts). Like Lotic’s recent work, this is uncompromisingly tough but palpably emotional music grounded in sexual turmoil and the subversion of revered European club styles. There is none of the cheekiness of Boxed and Rabit cannot untether himself from earthly concerns long enough to make this Weightless. Without wishing to be callous, nor would we want him to: it’s a privilege to listen in while he works this stuff out.
‘Baptizm’ is out now on Tri Angle Records. Buy it here.