There’s something refreshingly down to earth about Slackk’s debut album ‘Palm Tree Fire’. Removed from the club and tasked with meeting a totally different set of criteria, he navigates his way around the pressures of a first full length LP with a quiet assurance t0 map a very personal journey through the sounds and influences that have led him to this point. Although clearly inspired by the emergent Grime producer network he has helped grow and develop through definitive club night Boxed, it’s an LP that firmly treads it’s own path too and with it, reveals a more mellow and ultimately reflective side to Slackk’s persona.
In stark contrast to his bullish, straight-to-the-neck DJ sets, ‘Palm Tree Fire’ is naturally toned down but still surprises with a subtlety and delicacy in composition that few would choose to associate with instrumental Grime, let alone Slackk. The dreamy, beatless wander of ‘Kit & Holly’ is a great example, as is the excellent, ode-to-the-pan-flute ‘Three Kingdoms’, which embodies his penchant for exploring the altogether more visual, sino-grime landscape.
Not to be overlooked, track names play an important role in the surprising emotional significance of this album too. The colloquial charm of tracks like Puma Walk’, ‘Burnt Ends’ and particularly ‘Litherland’, the area of Liverpool that the producer grew up in, all contribute to painting a very different picture of ‘Slackk the destroyer’ – a tweet Local Action boss Tom Lea posted as we both watched Slackk play an hour of 8-bar Grime to a bewildered Rhythm Factory crowd back in 2012.
Indeed, without the jittery, dancehall rhythms of ‘Ancient Dolphin’, club-ready bounce of ‘Millipede’ or throwback, arcade chimes of title track ‘Palm Tree Fire’ (think Golden Axe on the Megadrive), you would struggle to place this as the work of the same artist. The broken, disjointed beats, drowned-out vocals and muffled atmospherics of the brilliant ‘Hope You Got A’ are not only really well executed, but genuinely tug at the heartstrings, whilst the whimsical, melancholy harmonies on ‘Hesitate’ hint at just how Slackk’s output has evolved. It’s for this reason that ‘Palm Tree Fire’ almost seemed like a bit of a step into the unknown, especially given his decision not to stream the album before release, and yet it feels all the better for it.
Whilst it isn’t the all guns blazing, hell-for-leather 8-bar some might have come to expect, neither is it gimmicky, conceptual nonsense – it’s a proper record, a record from a time and from a place. And for that, Slackk can consider ‘Palm Tree Fire’ a job well done.
‘Palm Tree Fire’ is out now on Local Action. Buy it here.