wed 19/06/2024

Album: Steel Banglez - The Playlist | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Steel Banglez - The Playlist

Album: Steel Banglez - The Playlist

East London production hero steps towards the spotlight with a cast of hundreds

'An extremely listenable and focused journey through these interlinked musical styles'

There is a truly fascinating story to be written about the hidden Punjabi influence on UK bass music. Maybe it’s natural for kids growing up with the huge booming sounds of dhol and tabla drums to gravitate to big bass speakers, but some of the most unique and influential producers in the interface between reggae, grime and dubstep have been from Punjabi backgrounds: notably Kromestar, V.I.V.E.K. and brothers Sukh Knight and Squarewave.

And perhaps most successful of all is Pahuldip Singh Sandhu from Newham, aka Steel Banglez. SB first made his mark in grime, and has effortlessly adapted to the shifting landscape of road rap, drill, afrobeats and the UK garage revival as years have gone on, making him one of the most in-demand producers in the huge wave of British rap that has dominated pop culture over the past decade. If that wasn’t clear before, it certainly is in the vast guestlist of mega names voicing the 27 tracks on his long awaited debut album. From grime originals (Chip, Ghetts, D Double E) through road rap aristocracy (Giggs, Blade Brown), to new generation heroes (Not3s, Mostack, Tion Wayne, Afroswing vocal group NSG) and even Nigerian megastar Burna Boy (duetting with the late Indo-Canadian star Sidhu Moosewala).

It could have been enormously incoherent, but in fact, even at 80 minutes, this is an extremely listenable and focused journey through these interlinked musical styles – it could hardly be a better introduction for the curious, in fact. The vocalists deal with honour, rivalry, sex, violence, style, dancing – all the usual mainstays of youth culture – and SB’s presence is felt throughout, not only via his announcements at the start of tracks, but in his unique production finesse no matter what the tempo or rhythm, and in his deep, deep bass (this really is one that only comes alive on big speakers).

It’s at its very best when the vocalists are most musically ambitious – particularly when the likes of Chip, Tion Wayne and Ms Banks engage in fast-paced, acrobatic rhyme styles, or singers like Ash & Tiggs Da Author are at their most introspective. That’s when it becomes clear just how exquisitely the elaborate cymbal patterns and elegant bass swoops of SB’s style are built to interlock with vocal tones. This goes doubly with multiple artists on a track: again, you get to see how his structures and production bind their individual vocal identities into a whole bigger than the parts.

On its own terms, this album succeeds absolutely; but one can’t help wondering what SB might be able to achieve if the economic and cultural landscape was more inclined to celebrate beat makers as much as stars of the microphone, and he didn’t need to announce himself on his own records. The idea of what he could achieve over a full album where his production and track structuring was given more room to breathe – perhaps even worked with a wider range of musicians – is intriguing to say the very least. Not that this takes away from this album: more it adds a sense of promise.


Listen to "Mera Na", featuring Sidu Moosewala and Burna Boy:  

The elaborate cymbal patterns and elegant bass swoops of SB’s style interlock exquisitely with vocal tones


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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