Asa & Sorrow - Legendary EP

Two eclectic bass artists turn violent for epic grime EP.

Additional Info

7.5

ALBUM: Legendary EP

ARTIST: Asa & Sorrow

2014

Electronic

If the new wave of grime has a minimalist “deconstructive impulse,” as suggested by a recent Vice article, Asa and Sorrow aren’t taking too much notice. Doing the opposite in Legendary, their latest effort, the two UK bass producers roll out four gun-toting bangers in heavy assault of the senses. The EP adds to the commotion coming out of Bristol, seeing a release on Joker’s Kapsize imprint in tandem with their own juiced-up revamp of label boss’ “Stuck in the System”—perhaps a significant gesture in marking the line of fire for Legendary as the duo seek to parallel the big statement made by Kapsize EP and other Joker anthems in the late 2000s.

Although the release may not be as groundbreaking as Joker’s earlier productions, it certainly matches the XLR8R “2009 king of bass music” in sensory-overload and big-room aesthetics: eskibeat is dressed in rave clothes (in the more modern, epileptic sense) and re-injected with haughty club synths to warm the cold and sometimes desolate scenes painted by other grime artists. Yet, Asa has spoken before on the “continuum of bass music in the UK” and how sub-dividing genres “only [limits] people’s creativity.” The EP therefore does not attempt to re-appropriate grime or Joker, but is also unashamed in building upon these influences to construct its own violent vision of instrumental grime.

Lead track “Untitled” reveals the production palette, chopping the lithe vocals from Fluke’s “Wifey Riddim”—once a popular ringtone amongst grime fans—to serve alongside baroque violin-lines, quick-fire snares and laser-blast square waves. These elements feature prominently, both on the rest of Legendary and in grime generally, but “Untitled” previews the more sentimental and fluid potential of the genre; meanwhile, “Shook” dwells at the darker end of the spectrum (and on the other side of the record), unnerving listeners with dirty bass, eerie chords and hostile vocal samples. The other tracks, “Titan” and “Legendary”, do more in explaining the EP’s appearance on Kapsize as Asa and Sorrow aim straight for the head in two thugged-out grime stompers.

As such, the record may be variegated but differs from some of the polished garage productions that Asa and Sorrow have crafted in the past. Eschewing cleanliness for something more raw and muscular, the duo’s crisp foley sounds and subaqueous filters are replaced by rough street noises and grime calling-cards: square waves, head-crushing guncrack snares, London accents and icy 8-bit bleeps that Wiley would be proud of. Sorrow, however, remarks that this is not a “dramatic change of style on [his] part,” having “been involved with making grime from an early age.” Rather, Legendary is a chance for the versatile producer to continue exposing different faces of 140bpm bass music (though he would probably take issue with classification by tempo), this effort in particular showing grime’s maximalist potential.

Yet, the face of Legendary can grow a bit weary. Furious and unforgiving, this is grime that never rests, characterized by busy, three-dimensional sonics and the occasional loutish vocal. Even the classy “Untitled” devolves into grimey madness, seeming more like a means of acclimatizing the listener to eski-bass than an exploration of sentimentality. As a result, Legendary sometimes falls back on similar patterns, and tracks such as “Shook” and “Untitled” could perhaps have branched off more from the rest of the EP. That said, sticking to your guns isn’t the worst thing to say about dancefloor destroyers and Asa and Sorrow’s methods are more than justified by the serious damage that tracks like “Legendary” inflict.

“We do that legendary shit.”

1. Untitled
The most melodic piece of the collection, “Untitled” is a twisted masquerade of prancing violins and bittersweet “Wifey” samples. Dancing with grime demons, the track descends from elegant to haunting as the masks are removed, unleashing the sinister spirits behind them. From here, disfigured vocals, tribal beats and throbbing eski-bass run amok, having lured the listener into the menacing and feverish soundscape of Legendary. As an aside, it is interesting to note that—despite sampling from a beat dubbed over by just about every grime emcee, all clamouring to spit their own “Wifey Riddim”—Asa and Sorrow left the track untitled (though they do insert a rude boy shout-out at the end).8.5
2. Titan
“Titan” continues the stringed-instrument themes of the first track, featuring titanic orchestral stabs and ear-lacerating violin-lines. The strings here are used more for pace and angularity than emotion however, making precise cuts along the livid sawtooth bass and muscular beat. Otherwise, sound effects such as sirens, car screeches and empty bullet-shells keep this a heart-racing affair but “Titan” does strip back at certain points, allowing some space for contemplating cold digital bleeps and filtered-out grunts.7.5
3. Shook
Based around a jarring chord sequence, first cut on side B comes straight from the seedy backstreets of London. Addressing the listener in challenging tones (“yo, who you lookin’ at?”), “Shook” drags you into an alley and batters you from every direction. All the while, hi-hats, “Icy Lake” clicks and woopy-cushion squeals add to feelings of unease through their high-pitch frequencies—though these sound less hostile in writing. Soft vocals interject to lighten the mood towards the end, but the track remains tense and threatening.7.5
4. Legendary
Title-track “Legendary” has been passed through a few select DJs over the past few months, however their warning shots do little to lessen the impact of this monstrous tune. Triumphant after a tumultuous journey, “Legendary" lumbers in a swagged-out kind of way: filled with self-affirming exclamations (“real champions out here”) and familiar grime figures from the other tracks. Still, Asa and Sorrow refuse to take a rest until the final seconds where they end on an airhorn in true, legendary fashion.8.0
Written by Justin Kwok
Justin Kwok is a Media Studies major at UC Berkeley, but daydreams of being an instrumentalist in some electronic duo. He enjoys deep bass music and psychedelia.

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