Anthoney Hart - he of Basic Rhythm and Imaginary Forces fame - drops the first release of his East Man project on Planet Mu. Red, White & Zero is a whip-smart take on grime also incorporates elements of jungle, techno and hardcore, with an overall effect not dissimilar to the ‘ruff sound’ pioneered by Novelist and Mumdance. Features include Darkos Strife, Killa P and Kwam, while academic Paul Gilroy provides liner notes.
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Anthoney Hart is well practiced in sparseness. As Imaginary Forces he stripped down techno and dubstep, leaving it unfamiliar and cold. As East Man, he pulls the same trick with grime. Grime is already one of the genres most capable of holding back. On Red, White & Zero, Hart focuses on this aspect, and creates 12 tracks whose restraint frequently recalls the likes of early grime minimalist masterpiece ‘Pulse X’.
In his piece accompanying the album, theorist Paul Gilroy, writes of the anxiety and paranoia forced on London’s youth by society’s failings. These same fault lines are found at the core of Red, White & Zero, informing its claustrophobic and abrasive atmosphere. But it is also inherently optimistic, and celebratory. This part of music history has succeeded in spite of society, its more successful members are now comfortably at the top of the music world, and I assume, being on Planet Mu, Hart could have tapped those riding the top of this wave to feature on the album.
Killa P dependably brings the dread you know and love from the music of one Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin, muttering the phrase “dead people” over and over on ‘Mission’, but it’s to his credit that the vast majority of the MCs are ones much less established. This gives the album the energy of a radio set, MCs passing the mic between one another, carefree and for now, without some of the weight of expectation. The better pairings are with Kwam and Darkos Strife, who both have an infectious energy that when put next to Hart’s dark music draw out the tensions Gilroy writes about. Hearing lines like, “Couldn’t even control their own Destiny, in that game that got published by Activision”, riding the most gruesome productions is always going to be funny, fascinating, and vital.
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