[Album Review] East Man – Red, White & Zero

East Man is the new project from Anthony Hart. His most recognised work prior to this, under the name Basic Rhythm, decimated jungle, grime and garage, distilling them into a new, fundamentally wonky sound.

While Basic Rhythm’s production on albums like, Raw Trax and The Basics, showed a restrained inclination of grime-styled production, Red, White & Zero sees Hart produce without inhibition. The beats are rudely physical, Hart dropping any musical counterparts he deems unnecessary leaving behind bass and drums. The music jerks and contorts – with notable space between each hit of a drum or blast of bass. Gracing this style with the name ‘Hi Tek’, Hart brings in further influence from dance hall, dub, drum n bass and techno – something he explored under the pseudonym Imaginary Forces.

This unique take on grime production cannot be overstated, being directly inspired by talks Hart struck up with theorist and academic Paul Gilroy, author of Their Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack. Hart himself had begun research into “representations of working class and mixed-race families.” The East Man album had a connection and soon Gilroy was asked to write an accompanying essay.

‘This is not zones 1 & 2 where houses and flats are capital rather than buildings to live in,’ states Gilroy, feeding into the theme of ‘outside-ness’ in the album, philosophically and physically. Red, White & Zero catalogues and gives voice to London’s marginalised youth, investigating its relationship with mixed, working class families.

The multiple MCs featured here aren’t from zones 1 & 2. Much like the rest of London’s marginalised population, they come from forgotten, or purgatory end-of-the-line tube stops.  This is an empowering characteristic for all of them, resulting in some of the most playful, yet damming and self-reflective lyricism in grime’s history. While we do have the laddy-fun of jokes about football manager Alan Pardew, (“I parred you like Alan.”) on ‘MMM’, we also have threats posed by Killa P like, “Late night massacre, kill a man when I’m out on a mission” on, ‘Mission’.

Interspersing these tracks, we get Burial-like abstractions; most prominently seen on ‘Drapesing’, where we hear the story of a failed mugging (or as the voices we hear make clear, “Official terms is ‘mugging’, slang terms is ‘drapesing’”) played out over the top of spectral synths and the jangle of key-rings.

The album closes with the massive ‘And What (Blood Klaat Version)’ calling back to, in both sound and name, Basic Rhythm’s ‘Blood Klaat Kore’. “Blood Klaat” is a vulgarity in Jamaican patois, referring to the cloth used to absorb menstrual blood, and it has become a catch-all swear word. This harshness of both sound and title is a mission statement; exposing the spread of patois to London youths, both black and white.

As Gilroy says, “We are always more than either this or that. We are more than either black or white.”
Words: Alex Weston-Noond

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