Published Jun 05, 2018When Edinburgh grime producer Joe Powers arrived on the scene last year with a smacking debut on Hyperdub, he was praised for the uptempo take he brought to the genre under his Proc Fiskal alias. Edging up the BPM, The Highland Mob brought a new sense of propulsion to instrumental grime's battle-ready kinetics, and he's returned with a dynamically overhauled followup primed to make new waves.
Named after the brain region believed responsible for processing emotions, Insula is a cerebral, introspective record offering an abrupt turn from pigeonholing that tags grime as street music, the melodic refrains often more baroque and fantastical than they are rough and hard-hitting.
The tactile cadence of all the genre's tropes are still intact, but Powers reaches beyond the normal sample packs when he's casting whimsical melodies with twinkling chimes and flute sounds on tracks like "2L" and "Vaudeville," piling on 16-bit videogame sounds and smartphone notifications liberally in loose and caffeinated jolts.
As Powers delves inward, the physicality of the world surrounding him increasingly resembles the digital one we're inundated with, while overcoming the zeitgeist's isolating grip to forge new connections and sounds. In Powers's rhotic accent, Insula could also be a pun on the insularity of the scene from which it was born, but its post-grime offering is anything but hermitic — a veritable form disruptor and a magnetic pièce de résistance. (Hyperdub)