A Masterclass in Innovation, RL Grime’s Third Album is His Coming-of-Age
In the midst of an era of electronic music when fans crave innovation and creativity above all else, RL Grime is the rare artist who has remained at its bleeding edge.
After months of cryptic teasers regarding his latest project, he has finally returned with his long-awaited third album PLAY, out now via his own Sable Valley imprint. Groundbreaking doesn't even begin to describe Grime's influence on electronic music, let alone the unique approach of the album, a career-defining work and his most inventive opus to date.
This is somewhat of a far cry from Grime's previous work, as his first two albums, VOID and NOVA, portrayed a journey through concise stories that aligned with his enigmatic persona. PLAY, however, is a much more personal venture that gives us a clearer look not only into his deep-seated inspirations, but also his future.
Comprising three distinct sections, PLAY is a coming-of-age for the elusive Grime, whose next move has always been impossible to guess. From his unmatched production talent to his masterfully-curated art direction, the record is cohesive in ways we often don't see in electronic music, each of its segments serving as snapshots of the experiences that led him to this moment.
The first section, APEX, takes us to the apex of Grime's festival-focused sound. With roaring collaborations alongside Juelz ("Breach") and EDM.com Class of 2022 star ISOxo ("Jewel"), it's an adrenaline rush from start to finish. "NME" (with JAWNS) is yet another raucous headline from this part of the album, as the soaring trap tune keeps the pace high with rumbling drums and warbling synths.
GRID serves as the second section of PLAY, embracing the anthemic elements of Grime we've heard on tracks like "UCLA" and "I Wanna Know." Here we're treated to some of the album's best songwriting, weaving a beautiful latticework of soaring dance music led by "Borderline" (with Montell2099 and EMELINE) and "Pour Your Heart Out" (with 070 Shake).
The third and final section of RUSH is designed to induce a euphoric flow state. Pulling inspiration from breakbeat, UK garage and techno, Grime has reached deep into his arsenal to redefine the rave. Here, vintage, acid-fueled sound design meets frenetic drum programming, led by the stunning "Around Me" as well as "Push" and "Hikari."
The art direction of PLAY stays true to Grime's persona, remaining mysterious but reflecting much of what inspired him throughout this album's writing process. Embracing the nostalgia he's evoked in the third section of the album, PLAY's artwork harkens back to the turn of the century. The artwork of each section features SD cards while the album cover itself showcases an imaginative rework of a portable music device.
The video teasers similarly serve as bygones of a lost era, using bright lights and gritty filters to capture anachronistic visual aspects. The teaser for the album itself plays into its central theme the most, however. Reminiscent of PlayStation and Nintendo commercials of old, the trailer jumps through each of the musical sections as listeners plug in their headphones and are transported to its blissed-out universe.
You can find PLAY on streaming platforms here.