- Finally, another MssingNo record. It's been two years since his last one, a self-titled EP that left a crater when it landed in grime and R&B circles. His first follow-up, the Fones EP for XL, doesn't depart from the sound he established in 2013, providing four R&B-grime hybrids that are as adorable as they are deadly.
One MssingNo hallmark is the way he treats vocal samples. In the wake of Burial and James Blake, countless copycats used R&B snippets to spice up their productions. It was an easy way to add some baby-making inflection to an instrumental, and it reached the point of needing a moratorium on use of Aaliyah samples. But MssingNo has a respectful touch when it comes to acapellas. On the EP's smoky title track, he places vocals front and center, writing around them with love and care rather than abusing them to meet his needs.
His drums are fresh, too. Where a less imaginative producer might wheel in a standard 808 for this kind of record, MssingNo wields a wider sound bank. "I try to stay away from these normal scene instruments that everyone else has used," he told Red Bull Music Academy in a 2014 interview—and it shows. His textures are weird, from the lullaby bells on "Scope" to the iridescent synth noodles on "Inta," though they don't compete for the spotlight. MssingNo's approach evokes Timbaland, whose best beats are idiosyncratic without distracting from the featured vocalist. Restraint is key: with such a solid, simple foundation, all of the EP's eccentricities can shine through loud and clear.