Functions of the Now III: Murlo

I’ve probably had one of Murlo’s tunes stuck in my head for the majority of 2013, his fluttering melodies set up shop in the brain and refuse to leave. Working mainly in the crevices between grime and dancehall, he has carved out a sound truly his own. Romantic, wistful and primed for a sunny day in the park. At the heart of his sound is a seemingly endless arsenal of melodies – clouds of darting, fluttering pizzicatos that shade dancefloors with misty-eyed nostalgia, that are as effective in switching up the vibe in a dance as they are in inducing eyes-shut bliss on the bus home. I’m thinking of Patang’s lackadaisical stabs, Windbreaker Riddim’s jabbing fanfare, and Irises’ darting strings. Traces of Murlo’s melodic influences  can be found in his remix work – a batch of RnB refixes, T2’s classic ‘Heartbroken’, Crazy Cousinz’s ‘Funky Anthem’. Recently Murlo has adopted the moniker of DJ Sharda to pursue bumping, feel-good bassline, with equally great results. While a recent collaboration with Famous Eno hinted at a darker, unsettling edge, these tracks inhabit such an uplifting space, one that, with fear of sounding reductive, is not usually associated with grime. But it is this combination of grime’s raw energy and power with dancehall’s good vibes that makes it all so refreshing. Of course, what greatly aids this perception of Murlo’s idyllic, arcadian sound is the aesthetic that comes with it, which is constructed by Murlo himself.  The music’s romanticism is expressed through his art – deformed creatures, ancient, smoky landscapes and symbols of the occult accompany his magical twinkle.

Murlo’s mix rolls through new bits from the man himself as well as dubs from those on the same page, with JT the Goon being particularly notable in that respect. Murlo is exemplary of what this series is interested in, those blending spheres, pushing boundaries, and staying true to grime’s ethos of progression, musical expansion and banger melodies. It is an absolute pleasure to have Murlo bring us the third instalment of our fledgling series.

On a side note, this might be a good moment to suggest some things that we’ve been feeling. Saga’s ‘Crescent’ EP is a slamming set of percussion-lead club bangers, while Rabit’s ‘Sunshowers’ EP should fulfil your thirst for all things icy. Drippin’ and Copout brought epic, lose-your-mind power on the ‘Night Flare‘ EP and Fatima al Qadiri conquered the dub war with ‘Knight Fare’. Elsewhere grime’s relationship with US east coast club sounds continues to flourish – on that tip keep your eyes peeled for excellent forthcoming EPs by Miss Modular and Sudanim for Her records. C.Z.’s ‘Stacks VIP’ pairs off Jersey’s donk with rotting squarewaves, as explicit a hybrid you’re unlikely to hear outside of Logos’ Ha flip of ‘grime’s year zero’, Pulse X (which features in Murlo’s mix).

Murlo was also kind enough to answer some questions for us, so read and listen on.

Stream: Murlo – Functions Of The Now

Truants: Could you tell us a bit about your involvement with Hipsters Don’t Dance? Murlo: “Inie and Karen (Hootiewho & Kazabon) were the first guys to give me a platform in London before I moved up here. I’m basically a resident DJ there now and the parties are always wicked.”

What’s the vibe like in London at the moment for those who aren’t there? With an eye on twitter it seems like upcoming producers in the grime scene are swapping endless amounts of dubs and there are collaborations popping up everywhere – and obviously you just put out a single with Famous Eno. There seems to be a real community spirit. “Yeah, people have been really supportive since I lived up here, there’re a lot of producers that are working together and trying new things out. Not just a London thing with that though, the community spirit is spread over the net. There are a lot of passionate people that aren’t based here.” Is the net a big influence on your music? What are its effects, outside of communications, on the scene? “Yeah of course. I mean, I haven’t experienced what it was like making music before the net but I was already exposed to so much stuff via youtube and soundcloud before I got started playing with fruity loops. Its nice to go into a club in London and hear people bring their own personal take on a sound, and to take an example of a night such as Boxed; I go there and hear tunes from producers in Australia and the US and loads of other places. There are a lot of wicked producers that just operate on the same wavelength. I think a positive to take from it is that it does inject new directions that a genre can take.”

Could you tell us about your relationship with dancehall? I was thinking you might be able to run through a few of your favourite riddims at the moment. “I love the work rate and the attitude of dancehall producers. It’s constantly moving forward and developing. For me the most innovative stuff comes from producers like the Ward 21 guys and Dave Kelly. Couple of the riddims I’m feeling at the moment are the Wi-fi Riddim, Bell foot riddim and Kalado’s ‘Bad inna bed‘.”

From what I can gather it looks like you’ve been rolling with another moniker, DJ Sharda, looking more at bassline. What’s the story there? How does Sharda differ from Murlo? “This summer I was waiting for releases to drop; I’m pretty impatient with holding on to tunes, I just wanna share everything I make straight away haha. I had an idea of coming with a slightly different approach to bassline so DJ Sharda kinda came out of that. I guess it isn’t sonically much different from my Murlo stuff, it’s more playful maybe. It’s nice just to have projects you can focus on from the ground again.” Are there any plans for a Sharda release, or is it just a bit of fun at the moment? “At the moment I don’t really have any plans for the tunes on soundcloud, I didn’t make them with the thought of releasing them but I’ll see how it develops and maybe further down the line I’ll work on new tunes for a release.”

Your melodies are always so evocative and vibey, what is your approach to melody? You seem to have special relationship with strings in particular. “Comes from everything I listen to I guess. I listen to a lot of RnB and dancehall and both genres are rich in that aspect. I think with the string thing it’s the same case. All my favourite garage and grime tunes have the odd cheeky pizzicato in them, it’s a really versatile instrument. Kinda timeless, y’know.”

You’ve also dipped into the visual side of things – there are some videos on youtube and also the Adder EP’s cover art and video. As a designer and visual artist, what’s the connection between your aesthetic and your music? “I’m big on video games and films. I don’t think about it really, it’s like a necessity that your music and artwork have the same amount of effort put in. I studied illustration at uni and the visual stuff is something I can always see myself doing coz I’ve been doing it for so long. It’s important for me to work hard on both things in a release, the artwork / video has such an impact how people take in your music I think.”

We haven’t really spoken about grime yet, although that’s what this series is about haha. What attracted you to the sound? “I started off playing garage, bassline and a bit of funky when I moved down to Brighton. I use to play a lot of stuff at the fund raisers that I started djing at so I never really just focused on just garage or just grime. Grime always had a great pace to it. I wasn’t ever massively into the dubstep produced instrumentals at that time though. Early tunes like Commander B’s ‘Pum Pum Riddim‘ was a regular in the sets though and still is.”

How do you feel yourself fitting in with the grime scene in general, both new and old? I’m asking because, although you seem to be involved, you have quite a distinct sound to other producers with the dancehall and soca combination. “It’s funny, I wouldn’t say I’m a grime producer, it’s where my head is at at the moment for sure though. I can’t see myself sticking to just one range but I’m really excited with tunes people are sending me at this kind of tempo at the moment and I’m really enjoying making it. I’m not really too sure what the old school heads think of my stuff, it’s obviously jumping back and referencing earlier parts of the sino-grime era. I think some people are put off by the lack of focus on MCs too, but each to their own y’know. Grime is a broad spectrum of tastes, it’d be boring if everyone was into the same thing. I think with the dancehall stuff it was just something I really enjoyed hearing in grime and applied it to slower tempos, you don’t really have to look far to see crossovers too, just a few months ago Riko Dan came with Rise of the Farda which was wicked.”

Tell us a bit about the mix you put together. “The mix focuses more on the synthy melodic style of productions coming through at the moment as well as a bunch of new ones from me. If you like any of the tunes follow the producers on soundcloud and send them love.”

What’s on the cards in the coming months? “If everything goes to plan the Last Dance EP will be seeing its release later this month. Got a few shows coming up and I’ve been working on a new release with Tight Knit Records I’m pretty excited about.”

Rabit – Sun Showers
Murlo – Velvet Wall (Slackk Remix)
JT – Oil on Ice
Dark0 – Phobos
Major Grave – Looking Forward
Midnight Mike – Untitled
Murlo – Pharaohs
50 Cent – Lil Bit (DJ Milktray Edit)
Wiley – Cable Street
Shriekin’ Specialist – Take Down
Murlo – Untitled
A Chan – Needs Must
Danny Weed – Names (Samename Remix)
JT – Twin Warriors (Murlo Remix)
Dark0 – Chaos
JT – Document 9000
Moon Gangs – I (Murlo Remix)
Murlo – Pit Lord
Slackk – Bamboo Houses Edit
DJ Eastwood – Ready 4 Da Grime
Logos / Youngstar – Steel Pulse
Murlo & Famous Eno – Ariel VIP
Dizzee Rascal – Strings Hoe (Wen Refix)
T_A_M – Tail Snap (Murlo Remix)
Shriekin’ Specialist – Too Right
Watson – I don’t Wanna
Inoj – Love U Down (Murlo 8bar Remix)
Meleka x Kevin Gates – Go (Murlo Blend)
Murlo – Throne Seduction
Slackk – Empty Bottles
JT – Twist of Fate
Drippin – Adrenaline (Murlo Remix)
Dizzee Rascal – I Love You (Remx ft. Wiley & Sharky Major)
Murlo – Last Dance

Artwork Credit: Joseph Jackson

Tobias Shine

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