Whenever someone makes a case for the joys of UK funky at present, Ill Blu’s name reliably comes up. If it’s strange to think that this is only their second release, the strength of their remix work provides a clue. A first EP for Kode9’s Hyperdub label lacked the dizzying buoyancy of the London duo at their best – especially their version of “Pull It”, a dancefloor hit for former grime MC Shystie, and their peerless sublimations of textureless, airbrushed pop by the likes of Cheryl Cole and Sabrina Washington.
The three instrumentals here, on the other hand, are leavened with a good dose of hysteria. Given a vocal, “Meltdown” would make an apt follow-up to “Pull It”. As it is, it’s excitingly unbalanced, see-sawing three ways between bullying bass riffs, saccharine square-wave ornamentation and MIDI-fied orchestral vamping. “Overdose” raises the pulse with a signature also heard on unreleased dub “Blu Magic” – a sound like a heart monitor warped by glissandi into robotic whistling – forcing it to trip over almost a junglist drum pattern. “Chelt” is simpler but effective, floating hazy arpeggiation over a comparatively four-square stomp, into which is hammered another physical bassline.
It computes perfectly that the EP should appear on Numbers, a label stepping in from outside UK funky’s heartlands geographically and in spirit – anything ripe or cheesy enough to risk turning off a wide audience has in effect been pruned away. The feat is that the honesty and energy of the results aren’t diluted, making this a record that lives up to its distinctive potential.