Terror Danjah Terror DanjahUndeniable
Thanks to people like Terror Danjah, the resurfacing of grime over the past couple of years has proved to be more than just a fad. It’s a resurrection –or rather the reanimation of a body that appeared to be dying–, by knowing hands, maybe the best around these days. Djs such as Elijah & Skilliam are the ones who, from labels like Butterz or the studios of Rinse FM –not to mention other imprints like No Hats No Hoods– have been the counterweight of the commercial evolution of vocal grime, now transformed in black pop with fluorescent clothes in the hands of new acts like Tinie Tempah or reconverted to the big bucks like Dizzee Rascal, and the counterweight consisted of an evolution of grime from the 2003-2004 era towards a more modern aesthetic way of doing things, without abandoning it’s energy and rage. In a way, the hardcore roots have been conserved and any kind of union with pop or American rap has been avoided. Those who now rule the underground are aware of the history and singularity of London to the genre, and they have found the way to keep it alive in spite of strength of dubstep and the always tempting Ibiza connection.
At this juncture, Terror Danjah is a key producer. First of all because, from his position at the centre of Nasty crew, he was one of the first to flood the London sewers with this new sonic viscosity, alongside Wiley. Second, because he has never stopped working, he has kept recording for almost a decade –a trace you can follow on “Gremlinz (The Instrumentals 2003-2009)”, his anthology on Planet Mu from last year– and he’s still there, at the forefront of the scene, still the best beatmaker of his generation and the next. There’s nobody who has been able to take over from him when it comes to influence, inspiration and actualisation, and this “Undeniable” is masterly precisely because of this: it’s not a grime legend who finally releases his debut album after a string of singles, collaborations, featuring slots and EPs, but a coup de théâtre born from experience and quality: teaching the young, maintaining his position on the throne, not because of lack of ambition of those who are upcoming, but because of his amazing anticipation.
“Undeniable” is a record in three perfectly linked parts. It shows his enormous virtuosity when it comes to production, as a beatmaker for rappers, a producer of instrumental grime that needs no voice and a renovator of the genre through the crossing of styles. It’s Terror Danjah’s ability to make everything sound personal and coherent which adds a plus to the album, which can be heard as a collection of dancefloor bangers, on pirate radio or an iPod, but also from start to finish as an awe-inspiring voyage to the depths of the underground. It connects the origins with a future that seems to still be open (and limited, certainly, because grime is a genre with hard to break laws, but still with an exciting horizon). “Grand Opening”, with the vocal participation of Dream McLean, is the most predictable moment, right at the start, when it does no harm: an epic opening, effectively, that could come from a Wu-Tang Clan record, violence with choruses and synthetic strings that can’t be heard on any of his previous tracks. But from there it’s Terror Danjah as we know him, in a purged version. Some tracks we already knew – “Acid” and “Bruzin VIP” were released on 12” on Hyperdub, two grime-rave bombs with energetic riffs inspired on the British hardcore tradition, which comes from Joey Beltram’s “Mentasm”–, others were expected and most of them are not. What was expected, for example, was that Terror would give room to raps on a record that is supposed to show every side of him, and in a very old school way as well, like on “Undeniable” –with the rasping voice of D Double E dealing with anarchic beats and pan noises– and “This Year (Pro Plus)”, on which the mic is shared by DOK, MZ Bratt and Griminal, and which sounds like an old tune by crews like N.A.S.T.Y.
Surprising, however, are tracks like “SOS”, on which, over eight minutes, rhythms burn and disintegrate with a classic grime start, a middle piece in which the pitch goes up and down and an end that sounds like techno. It’s in manoeuvres like these that the genre starts waking up and adapting to the new age. It’s an expansion of the vocabulary, a rebuilding of the idiom that occupies the best part of “Undeniable”. For example, it’s gratifying to hear how Terror defends himself in the speed garage revival ( “I’m Feeling U”), how he doesn’t renounce the grimette subgenre –grime with soulful female vocals– on “All I Wanna” (featuring Lauren Mason) and “Story Ending”, and how he swims between economised grime ( “Minimal Dub”), of neon tones ( “Breaking Bad” and “Leave Me Alone”, which go beyond the concept of rave) or personal versions of funky house ( “Time To Let Go”). Where many expected an album –a worthy and succulent album–, Terror Danjah has given us more: a style book for the grime of the coming decade.