Slackk – Palm Tree Fire

As steward of the now defunct Grimetapes blog, Liverpool-born Paul Lynch knows more about grime than most. While his raucous early productions as Slackk might have looked to UK funky for inspiration, it was the incorporation of his primary musical obsession into his music on 2012’s Raw Missions EP for Local Action that was to give his music its signature style. However, like the rest of the crew surrounding the grime-centric Boxed night he had a hand in starting last year, Lynch’s music has used the genre as a jumping-off point rather that a rigid book of rules, and his debut LP, Palm Tree Fire, takes instrumental grime in bold new directions.

Lynch has always been a producer fond of winding melodies, combining the melodic influence of eski grime and raw approach of Slew Dem, and taking the idea to far-out places. It’s something that’s occasionally felt cluttered in the past, but it’s testament to how good Palm Tree Fire is that it doesn’t feel like there’s an extraneous melody anywhere across its 16 tracks. Lynch’s music is still busier and more dense than that of most of his contemporaries, but by largely putting the functional rhythmic side into the background across the album, he gives his technicolour creations more space to breathe on their own terms.

Slackk - Palm Tree Fire
Artist
Slackk
Title
Palm Tree Fire
Label
Local Action
Format
LP, Digital
Buy vinylBuy digital

“Intercept” is a case in point; foregrounding the chimes and lopsided strings, the track’s pneumatic drill percussion and stray cymbals never quite coalesce into anything you could imagine played in a club. “Burnt Ends” operates in a similar manner, its cavernous Eastern melody paired with a spacious half-time beat that stops abruptly just as it gets going; “Wash You Face In My Sink” is just as to the point, sounding like it could be soundtracking a brief interlude in a Hayao Miyazaki film. “Hope You Got A” is even more freeform, featuring jazzy bass licks that mingle with a muddy vocal sample that sounds like it’s coming across a fuzzy AM radio channel. While the melodies across Palm Tree Fire are bold, they never feel overly maximalist like the flamboyant, trance-informed approach of a producer like MssingNo.

It’s this oddly subdued tone that largely permeates the album as a whole. Even in the moments when Lynch crafts a beat that could work in the club, the emotional tone feels strangely downcast. “Puma Walk” is driven by a dry, tumbling set of kicks and snares, but its woozy bassline sounds is a depressed, drunken stumble. “Crafty Tiger” meanwhile is one of the most emotive things Lynch has produced, a gut-punch of forlorn synths snares mirrored in the simple arpeggio and soaring strings of “Litherland”. In each case Lynch takes the melancholic tone of his standout 2012 track “Blue Sleet” and finds new ways to explore it without repeating the same trick twice.

While Palm Tree Fire is not without a few upbeat, club-focused tracks – like the triumphant square wave clash of “Palm Tree Fire” and the jittery treadmill of beats and tones that make up “Ancient Dolphin” – these aren’t the moments that stick out. Given his role as a resident of Boxed, it would have been easy for Lynch to release an album of bangers, but in delivering a varied album with such a maturity of tone, he’s taken the much braver approach. It’s worth remembering that the current surge in instrumental grime is still very much a niche concern, with those regularly attending Boxed and watching with interest online making up the most of its fans. However, by demonstrating that the genre can be twisted into album as wide-ranging as Palm Tree Fire, Lynch might just extend instrumental grime’s reach that bit further.

Scott Wilson

Tracklisting:

1. Palm Tree Fire
2. Intercept
3. Millipede
4. Bullfight
5. Crafty Tiger
6. Burnt Ends
7. Litherland
8. Wash Your Face In My Sink
9. Three Kingdoms
10. Jackal
11. T-Shirt & Knickers
12. Hope You Got A
13. Puma Walk
14. Hesitate
15. Ancient Dolphin
16. Kit & Holly