In another surprising release from Youngsta’s Sentry Records, Gramz shells pressurized UK trap for the label’s 5th outing. Since late 2016, Gramz has been releasing high-quality singles via his personal Bandcamp for measly pound coins, welding his own narcotic brand of trap music, unique for the constant switch-ups within the tracks, and their clear lineage to the grittier side of UK dubstep. SEN005 is Gramz’ first label-backed, vinyl artillery. The first three Sentry releases have become staples of sub-heavy, roller-class dubstep, most notable for D-Bridge’s first official 140 release, Fashion Dread. So, I raised an eyebrow when Caspa’s SEN004 was edging a lot closer to a filthy, more mid-heavy sound. Of course, Caspa was in his element, but it felt like a massive departure for Sentry. Now with “Illa” and “Dip Dip Potato Chip”, it looks like their journey is continuing. For a young label to be so quickly rooted in and lauded for a specific sound, it takes bravery to experiment.
A detuned, bit-crushed hook begins the short journey to “Dip Dip Potato Chip’s” air-consuming drop. Gramz has traded a rubble-inducing atmosphere caused by pin-point mastering for some of the structural creativity left behind in his Bandcamp releases. This makes for a solid platform to mix trickier patterns over, or for a pitched-down Flowdan to rain fire upon. The aptly named “Illa” crowns Gramz’ sound expression. An OG-trap, cunningly chopped vocal sample replaces the genre’s ever-present rolling hi-hats, which (for once) only appear rarely in triplets to introduce new sequences. The pace dynamically flicks between jerky, powerful slams to technical, percussion-heavy skitters. I appreciate the subtlety and lack of direction in the metallic samples that frame the “Illa’s” main section, adding to the experimental feeling behind Gramz’ work, where sonic atmosphere can exist without screaming a particular feeling in your face.
Conscious of their pressure, both tracks on the EP include moments of absolute silence. This both momentarily relieves the intensity of the last drop and builds for the next. Built by a producer whose innovation and love for the scene is all over his Bandcamp (let alone his other alias), this don of gritty UK trap, now backed by one of the most watched 140 labels in England, is sure to be brewing tidal waves. And now that its journey to diversify has begun, I’m interested to see what realm of bass culture will be put through Youngsta’s meticulous Sentry machine next.