- The sounds of classic grime—guns cocking, brusque brass and strings, whip-crack drums—are particularly fashionable in 2013. These are the building blocks that Keysound producer James Parker works with on his debut album, Cold Mission, but he drafts up blueprints rather than full songs. As a grime deconstructionist, he joins the ranks of Jam City and Rabit, but there's something uniquely vapourous about his compositions that turn the style's brutishness inside-out. He removes vital pieces of each song so the music feels bottomless, forcing the listener to hold onto other parts instead, be it an intermittent hi-hat or a dislocated bassline. By way of careful engineering, Logos has invented something new from familiar elements.
For such a physically powerful record, it's striking how much silence pervades Cold Mission—in a way, it's the album's loudest element. For the first 20 minutes or so, small sounds punch through the chilly air before being sucked back into the blackness from whence they came. Shattering glass and other fragments create ghostly soundscapes through this opening run. There's something almost defiant about an album that takes so long to rev up. Even when it finally hits, around track number five ("Seawolf"), it's a crippled attack.
This approach means every little sound hits with maximum force. Take the body-heaving shudders on "Menace," an intricate construction of synth brass and bounding drums that march in lockstep with some imaginary grid. It's downright eerie hearing all these disembodied sounds reanimated like this. Sure, he reuses the same elements throughout the LP—the drum samples in particular—but that's all part of the experiment. Cold Mission shows just how much variety you can wring out of a small set of sounds with enough creativity.
When Parker collaborates with others, their contributions practically glow in the pitch black. "Swarming," his collaboration with Rabit, feels so empty that it could collapse on itself. On "Alien Shapes," Dusk & Blackdown's contributions stand in stark silence amidst the occasional blast of icy strings. The album's most explosive moment is when he teams up with Mumdance for "Wut It Do," a new version of a previously released track. Emerging from a wash of ambience, the steely jungle breaks and demonic vocal cut-ups are like debris swirling in a funnel cloud. It's all topped off by a monstrous Reese bassline that shatters the record's stately silence in one broad stroke.
"Wut It Do" is bookended by Cold Mission's two prettiest tracks, the Four Tet-ish "E3 Night Flight" and the dizzy hangover of closer "Atlanta 96" making its crash-landing all the more spectacular. That's the funny thing about Cold Mission: it's one of the most powerful dance music albums in recent memory precisely because it's so quiet.
01. Ex 101
02. Statis Jam
03. Surface Area (Main Mix)
04. Swarming feat. Rabit
06. Alien Shapes feat. Dusk & Blackdown
08. Cold Mission
09. E3 Night Flight
10. Wut It Do feat. Mumdance (Album Mix)
11. Atlanta 96 (Limitless Mix)