Available on: 10 Tonne digital
If for you, the word carnival conjures up confetti-strewn images of sweat-beaded throngs dancing in the streets; inhaling wafts of jerk chicken while a aching sun beats down on a feverish Notting Hill / Rio de Janeiro / Leeds – wherever, then prepare to have your preconceptions altered. You’re on the right lines of course; each and every one of these places can claim the carnival to be their own at least once a year. It looks however, as if Birmingham’s Emvee is about to enter his own gravel-flecked street-party sound into the equation. Fresh from his excellent ‘Glitch Dub’ release on Glasgow’s Wireblock label, Emvee’s 4 track EP The Great High imbues the revelry of the carnival with a gritty heart.
Inhabiting some shadowy halfway house between Rio and Rinse FM, Emvee’s soca-strewn house fizzles with wide influences that could cover every pirate radio speciality in the Greater London area. From the nascent afrobeat congas of ‘Repeat Me’ to the fleshy urban bass hits that follow, every track revels in its own intrinsically hybrid nature. The EP’s second track, ‘Groove On’, epitomises this celebration of amalgamation. Led by its buoyant Afro-Caribbean percussion, ‘Groove On’ is only a dashiki shy of World Music before bulbous, concave dubstep wobbles begin punctuating the song’s stop-start snare cracks.
Whilst the loose grime shuffle of ‘Let Go’ veers dangerously close to becoming a more restrained take on Boy Better Know’s ‘Too Many Man’, the thick thunk-plunk calypso of ‘Windrush’ more than compensates for this minor, not to mention inoffensive, discretion.
This is an unabashed party EP, but with no hollow designs on empty-headed floor filling – though it will be more than capable of that. Deeper than the dancefloor, just beneath The Great High’s surface lies an ominous tone. Sewn into each and every track are subtle touches of macabre. ‘Windrush’ is layered not only with sharp white noise gasps, but with a ghostly syncopated organ ripped straight from the heart of The Specials’ Thatcherite Coventry. Both ‘Windrush’ and ‘Repeat Me’ swing and sway, ripe with the gluttony of their own bass sounds, revelling in the abstractions of their skeleton-rib xylophones and devils’ dance swing.