New York City isn't a place that people can leave easily. Ask Team Shadetek's Matt Schell and Zach Tucker. In 2004, the grime/hip-hop/IDM-fusing production duo, both native Manhattanites, decamped to Berlin, paid minimal rent, and made music full-time. But they couldn't stay away from their hometown for long.
"It's a fucking fact, dude," says Schell. "New York is a tough place to really leave. I always knew I would basically spend my life here. I [had] never left New York; I've been here literally my whole life. But I had to get out of New York before I could really be here. And now I'm back."
Fittingly, there's shouts to NYC all over Pale Fire, Team Shadetek's new LP for Brooklyn label Sound-Ink. On "Brooklyn Anthem," one of the record's standout tracks, MC 77Klash deems Brooklyn girls "the sexiest" over bass stabs, scattershot drums, and ragga chatting from Noble Society member Jahdan.
Tucker says he was surprised that Klash, an MC and producer who built the riddim for Turbulence's "Notorious," chose the "Brooklyn Anthem" beat to spit over. "I didn't expect him to be into it," Tucker explains. "I thought he was definitely trying to be like a pop star in the reggae scene, and it was the exact opposite. He was trying to get more crazy and more bugged out. We gave him regular stuff, like regular dancehall. He was like, 'Okay, that's boring. That's last year. I need the new crazy fire.' So I was like, 'We can do crazy fire. Take this one.'"
Schell and Tucker had been readying Pale Fire–a fierce mash of grime, hip-hop, and electronic chaos–since before Burnerism, their noisy 2004 effort on Warp Records. Surprisingly, it still maintains a sense of urgency, thanks to a cast of mostly bloodthirsty MCs, ranging from New Yorkers like 77Klash and Rodan to East London's Jammer, who was all over Matt Shadetek and DJ Sheen's 2006 Heavy Meckle, a mixtape full of Neckle Camp posse tracks that accurately captured grime's vigor and rawness. Though Pale Fire has seemingly taken forever, rowdy electronic offerings like "Dogs" and "Kalamata" definitely show the merits of time: they balance Heavy Meckle's restlessness and Burnerism's detuned synth buzzes, while channeling the frenetic energy of the place Team Shadetek is proud to call home.
"What I loved about Berlin is what reminded me of New York," says Tucker. "It just made me miss New York, so I came back."