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  • Filed under: Review
  • 01/29/2014

Cooly G Hold Me EP

Cooly G (a.k.a. Merissa Campbell) has always been a difficult producer to pin down. Between her self-released Dub Organizer EPs and early singles for Hyperdub, the South London producer was one of the first to effectively blur the boundaries between UK funky, garage, house, and dubstep, injecting an ineffable quality into the mix with her simultaneously icy and emotive voice. Campbell's releases have often had one foot firmly situated on the London dancefloor and the other in deep, dubby, and sometimes decidedly song-based territory. Her Hyperdub debut, "Narst" b/w "Love Dub," is an excellent example, as it paired the aggressive, grimey a-side with the slower, 2-step-inflected balladry of "Love Dub." While her music has always balanced between these poles, what has made Cooly G so compelling to listen to over the years is the way these two sides consistently worm their way into the same tune—even at its most insistent and tracky, Campbell's music is suffused with a smokey ephemerality that is entirely her own.

It's interesting then that her latest release for Hyperdub is billed as a return to tracks "built for the dance floor and DJ." While 2012's Playin Me album certainly marked a shift towards a softer sound, and brought the influence of classic soul and R&B closer to the surface than it was in her previous releases, it was hardly free from the pulse and clattering rhythms of UK funky that had consistently informed her work. The Hold Me EP consists of three tracks that, perhaps more so than any Cooly G release so far, are relatively consistent in style and tempo.

Opening track "Hold Me" features syncopated rhythms that are kept locked to the floor by steady, bouncing subs and jazzy organ chords. As usual with a Cooly G track, "Hold Me"'s most distinctive quality is the presence of Campbell's ghostly, minor-key vocals, which float above the mix, thick with dub-echoing reverb. "Oi Dirty" features Hyperdub labelmate DVA, and the tune's opening moments—in which Campbell, MC-like, announces herself and her collaborator—aligns it with the slapdash nature of her Dub Organizer-era material. The tune itself is full of slyly lopsided beats and skittish, squelching synths, with a dizzying sense of vertigo and seedy, stepping rhythms. Final track "Molly" is the most overtly dancefloor-friendly fare, despite featuring plenty of Cooly G's trademark microprogrammed digital scree amidst its rolling bassline and lush 4/4.

In retrospect, the arrival of Cooly G on the Hyperdub stable in 2009 could be argued for as a pivotal moment in the shift the label has undergone from purveyor of London's finest dubstep and forward bass sounds to its current diverse incarnation. While Campbell has always been somewhat tentatively aligned with UK funky, and many of her tunes contain that relatively short-lived sub-genre's sonic signatures, her music is largely irreducible to any genre, and is the product of a period where the forward momentum of London dance music was starting to collapse in on itself, producing a seemingly boundless sense of productive possibility. By going 'back to basics,' the Hold Me EP reveals that simplicity was never part of Cooly G's M.O., and while this is a challenging, compelling record from a singular producer, it is a less exploratory effort than we've come to expect from her.

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