Ridin’ With The BassLION – 5G4B (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Entering the sonic world of 5G4B is a bit like what it must have been like for Alice once she emerged from the rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland. In the music there are lots of recognisable sounds and styles, tropes and topics, grooves and genres but they just seem to be mixed up or in slightly the wrong place, wilfully chaotic or wonderfully out of context. It’s the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, The Court of the Queen of Hearts and whatever the Caterpillar was smoking in his Hookah pipe all rolled into one. But like that Caterpillar, Ridin’ With The BassLION quickly turns into a sonic butterfly.

Although on first listen, it might sound as if 5G4B seems to be playing things straighter this time out, adopting a drum and bass driven, rap-infused form, as always the devil is in the detail, as they say. The up-front and in-your-face elements of the song might seem very familiar for sure, but even those have plenty of time to evolve, shift and meander through various rap and alt-dance sub-styles throughout the course of the song. Straightforward rap-salvos blend with half-heard, spoken-word diatribes, more harmonious deliveries and ghostly vocals but by the time you take a second or third run through the music, you will find yourself conducting your own musical archeology, digging down into the song to unearth and examine the sub-structures which support these more obvious surface moves.

The beat is busy to the point of being frantic but it delivers real groove, a hypnotic constant, slightly off-kilter, occasionally breaking down to change the dynamic but the perfect explosion of energy to power the song along. And most artists having firmly nailed down the beat and laid down an ever-shifting salvo of incendiary lyrics, would consider the job done. But that is a sonic sandwich short of a proper filling. Those outer elements might be the most important but it is often what you spread between them which creates, or at least enhances, the flavour.

And the flavours oozing out of that middle ground really do make all the difference here. Strange electronica and stark synth-lines weave together the sort of riffs that you normally associate with a TV sci-fi show with chilled clubland sonics, clattering background samples with elegant, classical piano and aa whole host of less easily identified sounds. And the resulting bundle of musical textures is both robust and tightly bound yet cocooned around each other in such a way that every element seems necessary and accessible.

Some sounds are easily recognisable, others seem more like background noise and some are strange new hybrids of two or more obvious sounds colliding to give birth to something entirely unrecognisable, entirely unexpected and entirely unique. But it is such gene-splicing which has always been at the heart of what 5G4B does and even when he is navigating the often musically homogenous world of rap and drum ’n’ bass, he is expert at subverting the form, making the most unexpected moves and somehow changing the physical nature of the world around him. The result is music which conforms to different laws of physics, which seems bigger than the space it inhabits, simultaneously further away and right in your face, at times even coming from inside your head. Perhaps it exists in more dimensions than the rest of us. How quantum is that?

There is a saying that “a prophet is not known in his own land,” and that seems very apt to the music that 5G4B makes in generally and particularly to Ridin’ With The BassLION. This is smarter than many who inhabit the world of urban clubland and alternative dance floors, will be able to comprehend. The movers and shakers will want to be associated with it until they move on to the next thing. Musicians and DJ’s will find a way to use it to further their own career…this is indeed the giant whose shoulders they will want to stand on. Hipsters and hoodlums alike will namedrop it to great effect but the real ramifications of these wonderful, strange, and indeed wonderfully strange, sonic experiments go much wider. This is the sound of music evolving, boundaries being pushed, genres being smashed, potentials being reached and surpassed, minds being changed, new benchmarks being set and new paths followed.

Yes, “a prophet is not known in his own land,” but some people are smart enough to understand that it isn’t all about profit!

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