Los Angeles native RL Grime came up in US rave circles with the late noughties lo-fi rap deconstructionist crew WeDidIt. Alongside producers and DJs Shlomo and Ryan Hemsworth, he distilled the glittering bombast of the then-burgeoning EDM sound, drawing from creepy percussive trap atmospherics and from Grime’s own love for emo songs and pre-teen horror TV shows. With his 2014 debut album Void, Grime took his edit techniques and crossed over into trap-inspired EDM production, collaborating with vocalists. On his new album, Nova, these collaborations are more high-profile, with melodic rap and R&B refrains from Chief Keef, Jeremih, Tory Lanez, Ty Dolla $ign and Miguel. Meanwhile, the beats are decidedly less concerned with trap, more suited for the US festival circuit than the rap club – rolling drum’n’bass builds with jackhammer drops, Auto-Tuned vocal samples as algorithmic bursts.
Over its 15 tracks, Nova aims for what John Seabrook describes in his book The Song Machine as: “The bliss point – where rhythm, sound, melody and harmony converge to create a single ecstatic moment.” Delivering these moments almost back to back, it’s a pick-and-mix listen of high-def dynamics that at times can feel relentless. Home listening it’s perhaps not. In the afternoon heat of a gargantuan Californian festival, though, tracks from Nova are likely to bring teenage EDM fans with a sweet tooth for beefed-up Top 40 rap bangers together, in head-shaking, fist-pumping ecstasy.