Review: Dro Carey feat. Merky Ace – N.R.

Sydney-based Templar Sound might be located on the opposite side of the world to Bow E3, but a new white label series is set to place the label at the forefront of a slew of new movements in the grime scene. Tenaciously committed to the unbeatable 2003-2005 era, labelhead Aidan Bennison is embarking on a bold mission to give transcontinental support to the grime wax revival. After MCs moved to US-style mixtapes and racist police acts forced grime out of clubs, the production side of grime spent a number of years in the wilderness, having been sidelined in the UK underground in favour of an increasingly conservative dubstep scene. Thankfully recent years have seen Butterz herald an incredible resurgence of dancefloor-focused grime 12″s, flanked by a number of similarly inspired labels: Harddrive, Earth 616 and Oil Gang to name a few. Where do Templar Sound fit in amongst this? While those labels are doing great things for producers, what’s missing with respect to the early noughties is a unification between this new scene and the vocal movements happening in parallel. Templar Sound’s new white label series aims to do just that, sticking religiously to a classic format: one vocal, one instrumental, one remix.

Stream: Dro Carey – N.R (Merky Ace Vocal) / N. R / N.R (J Sweet Remix)

Launching the series in rude health comes a potent depth charge from Dro Carey and Merky Ace with veteran J Sweet on the remix. For our money Dro is one of the most interesting artists working at the fringes of dance music right now, offering a dizzyingly fully formed and idiosyncratic vision that belies his youth. Ravenously consuming influences from transatlantic niches, he effortlessly twists existing forms into twitching shells of their former selves, vocal slices transmogrified into dark incantations and brimming with discord. For the sake of function his appearance here is a more stripped down affair, removing the percussive ticks to make way for cascades of Jon E Cash sublow synth and Merky Ace’s compulsive vocal. Truth be told we prefer Dro’s more frenetic movements, but inverting that nervousness into low slung paranoia is a good look for him too. The Family Tree MC finds his cartoonish bars recast in a much more threatening light. When Merky talks about “headbacks all over the pavement with a big strap- death” for the first time he sounds like he really means it.

The real gold is on the flip though. There’s a certain quality about the most potent producers from the old era that allowed them to essentially remake the same instrumentals over and over again without ever seeing diminishing returns, and J-Sweet certainly has it. Distorted and propulsive, his remix of N.R is cut from the same cloth as his classic work. Some extra spice is added via a second drop that ups the intensity levels of the 8-bar switch ups and wouldn’t go amiss next to some of Spooky’s recent production work. At heart though this is straight out of 2003, and it’s excellent for it: what’s so impressive about those beats is how perfectly they embody pure functionality whilst sounding completely raw and alien.

The globalising effect the internet has on hyper-local scenes can be a double edged sword, more often than not eradicating the contexts that make the original work so compelling and meaningful. Be that as it may, it is a wonderful thing that entities like Templar Sound are able to so authentically contribute to a scene from across oceans, and these kinds of relationships certainly help ease the pain of clumsy appropriation elsewhere. With the next 12″ boasting names even more exciting than this, it’s certainly a series worth watching closely.

Dro Carey feat Merky Ace – N.R. is available now on Templar Sound.

Simon Docherty