It’s hard to be conservative with superlatives for an artist as singular as Murlo. With releases on Mixpak, Glacial Sound and Unknown to the Unknown as well as a host of other songs and refixes and an early entry in our Functions of the Now series, it’s safe to say Murlo had 2013 on smash. Even taking into account the numerous singles and remixes from further back, Murlo’s tunes all seem to tie into this vast, colourful and extroverted nebula of vitality. Further exploring the synth-heavy, especially melodious strain of grime and occasionally bringing dancehall into the fray, his music is just like his label release history: unable to sit still, never settling, always on to the next thing. He also seems constantly busy, regularly DJing whether that’s with Hipsters Don’t Dance or the Boxed crew. Coming from a background in illustration and continuing to work in creative fields outside of sound, he produced the video for “Into Mist”, title track of his new EP on Rinse.
“Into Mist’s” vibrancy comes from its playfulness, kicking off with restrained percussion before Murlo lets loose with the marimba-type sounds, all light and airy and cushioned by incidental strings. Soft, sensual and exciting, it’s the dream they try to sell you in chocolate adverts. He only lingers on the Malteser riddim briefly however, as those signature harmonious synths have to come in along with the claps and shuffles, turning the track into bouncy, free-flowing glee. Chiming percussion reappears on “Vertigo” and “Roman Baths”, on the former as a sugary supplement and on the latter as a more tempered refrain. The final track on the EP is all minimal string plucks dancing across the layers like light rain. Murlo is a wizard with those sounds, knowing when too much is too much, and when too much is seriously fun. If Mumdance gets to be Grimey Jeff Mills then we’re nominating Murlo for Grimey Steve Reich.
Murlo’s works have reached a stage where it’s fair to expect a certain standard of quality from new releases. The reason why his Into Mist EP excels so much is that he doesn’t just meet those expectations for club bangers, he surpasses them by expressing his versatility more vividly than ever before. Each track on the record proceeds with different pacing, offering something new each time. “Vertigo” follows on from “Into Mist” retaining the energetic aspects, marrying them with a garage cadence and spliced vocals. Even then, there’s still some marching snare-work and videogame-like synths on an adventure tip. The latter two tracks take a decidedly considered approach leaving some room to breath. “Roman Baths” sees a contemplative Murlo take some time out for melancholic reflection as a sample of a girl’s laugh seems to echo throughout in some nostalgic way. Closing with sighing piano notes, “Roman Baths” is a much welcomed unexpected turn. The curveball comes in right at the end though, in the form of “Dripstone (The Chase Scene)”. Here, some padded kicks and throws are kept while most of the rest of the percussion are thrown out in exchange for solid, straight-faced samples from the inner city, from breaking glass, twisting locks to shutting doors. Passing traffic wooshes hover just outside of Murlo’s bubble of bashful strings and shimmering landmarks. In a way, it’s as if Murlo juxtaposes this world of rustic peace with rush of the city creeping around it, in the form of those urban cues.
Juxtaposition of coexisting entities is something that regularly appears throughout Murlo’s work, one way or another. Sometimes there’s this meshing of styles and genres as mentioned, or how “Into Mist’s” inclusion in Elijah & Skilliam’s Fabriclive 75 is yet another signal of inter-relatability across perceived generations in grime. His illustrations and expressed interests have involved ancient civilisations (the “Into Mist” video is heavy on Roman influence) and fantasy worlds alongside videogames, translated towards the peripheries of grime, a genre that exists both on futuristic frontiers and properly grounded in concrete jungle sprawls. Often, the world humours its impulse to impose constraints on artists – what their function is, the way they work, what it is they can be. Murlo is flourishing, paving new ground in any direction he wishes, and his Into Mist EP is a shining example on the merits of simply letting the artist be.
Murlo – Into Mist EP is out now on Rinse. Grab it here.