by: Rachel Narozniak
Sep 15, 2023
RL Grime stands behind what can reasonably be called one of dance/electronic’s most innovative long-form outputs this year. On his third studio album—the awaited answer to 2018’s NOVA—Grime transcends the bass-fueled trap sonic palette with which he painted on both NOVA and his debut, 2014’s VOID. Though the producer still engages with these colors on PLAY, he does so in a way that’s far from recycled. Simply put, the concept-guided LP is unlike anything listeners have heard from Grime before, yet it still manages to strike a sense of familiarity while exuding freshness.
As streamers sift through the three-piece project, it becomes increasingly clear that PLAY is an apt title, for Grime does just that across APEX, GRID, and RUSH. In a creative and experimental stretching of the legs, the trap virtuoso strides forth into futuristic, deep house, and even techno territories. Whereas APEX provides a front-row ticket to a classic RL Grime festival set, GRID takes a noticeably hook-facing approach with a collaboration-heavy makeup and singalong appeal. As a bonus, an A-list cast of characters, including Baauer, 070 Shake, Reo Cragun, and Montell2099, to name just a few, comes along for the ride.
Meanwhile, the finale, RUSH, dives into Grime’s “deepest musical inspirations,” per a press release. “This section of the album [RUSH] became a place where I could venture back into the house/breaks/garage/techno/etc. roots that got me into dance music in the first place. I think I was always hesitant to release anything like this as RL because I wanted a clear distinction from my older projects,” he said. “It was important for me to create a space where I could explore those genres and have it make sense contextually.”
The individual segments, unified by their stadium-scale sound and general it factor, differ stylistically by design and can powerfully stand alone, such that APEX, GRID, or RUSH could each function well as an individual album release. But isn’t it wonderful that they don’t have to? As a full run-through of PLAY will reveal, this project is unequivocally and uncoincidentally greater than the sum of its parts—a feat for any dance/electronic album that RL Grime ultimately makes look like child’s PLAY.
View a complete list of stops on RL Grime’s North American PLAY Live tour below.
Featured image: Brian Walker