Grey Code has always been known for his diversity in sound, pretty much as soon as he hit the scene. With clean synths, cleaner breaks and overall work that reads more like high concept art than dancefloor D&B. It’s no wonder he’s released on so many premier labels since his first releases in 2017. Now with almost everything he does being scoffed up by Metalheadz, the continuation of the sonic journey that started with his Reprieve and Heilos EPs is almost here in the massive Renewal album, due out this Friday, January 28, could really only be on the mega-imprint.
A sonic journey in itself, Renewal is both a departure for Grey Code and right down the line of what fans love about him. Somehow celestial, cinematic and heavy all at once, the new album is as emotionally complicated as it is musically. Inspired, as most musicians have been these last two years, by COVID and its effects on history, Renewal tells a contemplative story so engaging that listeners may forget they’re listening to drum & bass. It’s an experience, not just a beat.
Don’t get us wrong; the drum & bass beats feature heavily in Renewal and will play well on big rigs because of course they will, but there’s an air of difference and expansion into other territory here that will make almost every track stand out. Think Misanthrop’s Blurred EP or Noisia’s more high concept stuff, a’la “The Nomad” with Mono/Poly: it’s instantly recognizable not because it’s popular but because it’s different, both musically and emotionally. Tracks like “Prima,” “Primrose” and “Iliad” on this album will, when dropped, instantly take the audience to a different space. They just happen to be danceable as well.
There are also tracks on the album that are so different that they’re properly in different genres (not that GC has ever cared about genre). “Quantified Self” sounds more like an industrial producer fell in love with a digital pixie than anything in the bass music category, for example, and “Birth (Interlude)” is truly beatless, sounding a bit like what would happen if someone threw the self-playing mods from Switched on Bach into a black hole. Spaghetti wiring being spaghettified. Trippy.
Somewhere between the heavy beats and beatless mod play on Renewal lies our premiere for today, “Miserere” featuring a new artist, Fixed Point. Following directly after “Birth,” Miserere kicks off a beautifully, synthy and heavily vapor wave-inspired synth with cinematic and celestial sound design. Then, rather than dropping directly into the heavy mess of sub synth and snare-driven dark beat, those elements sort of wash over the intro and draw it into said sub synth and snares. From there it’s almost a battle between the earth and the skies, or heaven and hell, depending on your philosophy, and they two parts come to a synergistic cacophony at the classically-composed crescendo, winding around each other rather than battling in the end. A single, vintage synth chord marks the end of the track, but not the recession of goosebumps. That won’t happen for a while. It’s hard to claim a best track on this album, but “Miserere” is close.
There are a lot of levels to listen to Renewal on; you can contemplate the futility of existence while listening to the full album if you like or just skank away to each track on the dancefloor. You can appreciate the sound design and craftsmanship (like your humble theory nerd author) or blast the bass in the car and piss off your whole town. Grey Code’s such a good artist because he gives the audience a choice. No matter how you want to experience it, Renewal captures a musical and cultural snapshot in time and is an epic drum & bass album for the ages; that’s universal.
Renewal drops this Friday, January 28 on Metalheadz. Click here to pre-order or pre-save.