ALBUM: Take Time EP
Jack Adams, better known as Mumdance, has been busy in 2014. Building off a foundation of instrumental grime, Mumdance spent the past half-a-year expanding his sound to include MCs and international soundscapes. Along with the release of Take Time EP, this month alone has seen the grime artist travel to Egypt to collaborate with Cairo musicians Figo, Sadat, Diesel, and Knaka in a 30-minute mix. Currently signed to the influential UK label Rinse, Mumdance is poised to play an increasingly influential role in the world of grime.
Though Mumdance is often associated with labels that occupy the instrumental sector of the grime movement, such as Gobstopper Records (whose owner, Mr. Mitch, released a narcotized edit of the “Take Time” instrumental), Take Time’s main artistic shift seems to be a move from strictly instrumental grime tracks to the inclusion of MCs, like title-track feature Novelist. In grimes heyday in the early 2000’s MC’s like Dizzy Rascal, Roll Deep, and Kano dominated the scene, with the instrumentals taking a back seat. Novelist harkens back to these days, and his surprising youth (at the age of sixteen) implies a bright future. Where the first generation of MC’s are reaching their thirties and looking to move away from the scene, young blood is beginning to take their place. Thus, Novelist recaptures some of his predecessor’s adolescent vigor, with lyrics that call into question the conspicuous consumerism in the UK grime scene, and rap in general. Like many other MCs inflected by the Rasta subculture in the UK scene, Novelist sits back and critiques other MCs less considerate of their part in corporate systems.
“Take Time” may be a stand out track on the EP, but Mumdance still manages to keep interest up with two other instrumentals. Whilst the icy and broken feel in “The Sprawl” doesn’t lend itself quite as well to MC accompaniment, the track has character—albeit a fairly bizarre one. This oddity arises from the samples that he chooses, that are complex but not overly emotive, with parts of the track sounding like a laser-tag cluster-fuck, whilst others play out like a fight scene in Star Wars transplanted into a machine shop. Consequently, Mumdance’s sonic palette is quite unique, employing a minimal construction to encourage the listener to engage with the quality of the sounds sampled. These sounds tend to have a rhythmic element—as opposed to the more melodic sampling that most electronic artists prefer—that brings a very particular feel to the tune. Thus, with little harmony or melody to speak of, Mumdance focuses on the interaction between different tones and textures in his samples, and sudden shifts in feel to keep the listener guessing. One of the most striking shifts is on “Don’t Get Lemon”, where a cinematic buildup leads abruptly to the track’s initial sparse and inharmonic bass drop. Though it follows the build-to-drop formula prevalent in dance music, it does so in such a way as to disorient the listener. It might take some getting used to for the average consumer of chord progression based music, but it’s worth the time.
Mumdance’s take on grime in Take Time is not revolutionary, but it is a continuation of the quality productions coming out of grime’s burgeoning rebirth in the UK. What’s most impressive about the album is his attempt to create a bass heavy, hip-hop influenced brand of UK bass that avoids the trap trend. Though there is nothing particularly wrong with trap, the stylistic elements of the genre (808 base drums, rap vocal sampling, and the ever present stuttering and slippery high-hat line) have infected many genres of bass-built electronic music, and it is refreshing to see a different approach. Rather than overloading the senses, Mumdance’s sampling is full of space, but still somehow manages to be compellingly danceable. On “Take Time”, much of this flow has to do with Novelist’s contribution, but the other tracks—particularly “Don’t Get Lemon”—manage to create club-friendly atmospheres without the bombastic.
“They could have Gucci belts but go home to an empty fridge.”