DJ Richard – Grind

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This is pretty fucking fantastic, and on the shortlist of the best electronic album of 2015 (I’m still playing catch-up). Hopefully this receives some recognition in year-end lists because reviews at the time of release damned it into that limbo of lukewarm praise (ie. >8.0 but not Pitchfork-approved; just under the 4.0/5 over at Resident Advisor). Song titles like “Savage Coast,” “Waiting for the Green Flash” and “I-Mir” (the latter two references to mirages) recall Drexciya’s obsession with aqua themes, but whereas Drexciya’s music is more arcane – like music made by or made for a dance-crazy, underwater colony – Grind sounds like the here and now: industrial, uncertain, and, in brief bursts, hopeful. You know? It sounds like the daily motherfucking grind.

I mean, just check out “Savage Coast”: insistent beat, held synthesizer tones for you to sink in, and a contrasting, more active synth that sounds like hungry seagulls at the coast that have decided that humans taste better than scraps; “Savage Coast” indeed. At the 2:20 mark-onwards, DJ Richard introduces a 80s-ish kinetic synth line of pure, melodic dread that carries the song into “Screes of Gray Craig.” Elsewhere, “Nighthawk” juxtaposes quiet, high pings as beacons of light against an alarm and skittering drum programming.

While the techno songs are the obvious highlights, unlike, say, the latest Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the beatless ambient or drone tracks throughout Grind aren’t filler like one would think, given how EPs are where artists like DJ Richard thrive, and given how DJ Richard created this in a short, huge burst of inspiration after previous work was stolen. “No Balance” nicely sets the tone: sustained synths, industrial blasts of metal against metal, creaking wood all create an atmosphere like a ship lost a sea, swallowed by the fog that perfectly leads into “Nighthawk” (between that and the aforementioned handoff of “Savage” to “Scree,” Grindfunctions perfectly as an album); elsewhere, the droning “Ejected” acts like the perfect placeholder between the ambient techno thump of “I-Mir” and closer “Vampire Dub.”

All that being said, I don’t get much out of either “Scree of Gray Craig” or “Bane.” Everyone else claims the latter as a highlight, but methinks the track’s dance-ready and frantic synths are out of place. This is in contrast to “Vampire Dub,” whose warm synth tones and playful, aqua-ish melody are a ray of light after the preceding 40 minutes. Here, the brightness doesn’t seem out of place, it seems well-earned. Of course, the track as the word ‘vampire’ in its title, so maybe its hope is misleading.

Here’s The Monitor’s Jamie Miller to close:

Grind is an album full of juxtaposition and balance, its nosier aspects and tough drums balanced against an obvious knack for intricate and heart-melting synth melodies pulled of (sic) to near perfection throughout; equal measures of despair and hope as the tide of the record ebbs and flows. DJ Richard has produced an understated record the apparent simplicity of which reveals new depths and emotions with each listen. The sense of loss and expectation that permeates the tracks on Grind is something that becomes all the more pertinent with its release coinciding with the changing of the seasons. A very fitting soundtrack to autumnal evenings.”

All that, except I didn’t get here until the wintertime (it’s winter as soon as you see snow), but still fitting. More so, I’d argue.

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