Over the past year or so, a huge swath of the bass-music world has been preoccupied with creating the perfect middle ground between the urban sounds of the UK and the US, a place where stuttering grime and garage beats smoothly intermingle with hip-hop swagger and R&B divas. Yet this is a sonic space that Kingdom has been occupying for years, and his latest release, the four-song Dreama EP, proves that he's still miles ahead of the pack.
The EP starts off strong with "Let You No," a spindly tune with winding synth melodies that recall the best moments of mid-'00s sinogrime. As the song's melodies slowly twist and turn, the track takes on an almost hypnotic air, an effect only multiplied once Kingdom begins to fold in some sultry R&B vocal snippets. Granted, at this point there are few things more cliché and overdone in contemporary electronic music than the pitch-shifted R&B vocal sample, but in the hands of a producer like Kingdom, an artist with a genuine love of R&B and hip-hop that predates the current bandwagon, the technique still sounds fresh.
Traces of R&B can also be found on the EP's next offering, "Stalker Ha," but the track—as the name implies—largely revolves around Kingdom's experimentation with vogue house. Built around a piano melody that sounds like the long-lost theme to a late-'70s/early-'80s horror flick, "Stalker Ha" employs the ubiquitous "ha" sounds (lifted from Masters at Work's classic "The Ha Dance") that have come to define the modern ballroom scene. That said, while much of that world's output is raw and almost aggressive, both in terms of its production and overt attitude, Kingdom stays true to his usual aesthetic and keeps things polished and sexy.
More relaxed is the EP's title track, which returns to the sinogrime-flavored synth melodies of "Let You No" while employing an intricate, albeit laid-back, hip-hop beat. Also present are a simple '80s electro-funk bassline and a hint of hip-hop bravado, all of which combine to make the swirling "Dreama" a rather interesting production, although not one exactly suited for the club. The same goes for the closing number, "Hood By Air Theme," in which Kingdom tries his hand at footwork rythms, albeit in a manner that's far more inventive than that of most of his contemporaries. Oddly enough, the song rides along what sounds like a stop-and-start, half-time footwork rhythm; essentially, it's made at a hip-hop tempo, but its 808 snares and rolling toms wouldn't be found on the standard rap track. The tune also takes a surprising turn approximately two-thirds of the way through, when the beat drops out and a choir-like vocal surfaces. The surprising part? The vocal sounds like a tweaked clip of Madonna's "Like a Prayer." It's a ballsy move, and one that could only be tastefully pulled off by a skilled producer, yet once the beat comes back in, Kingdom expertly layers the repeated "I hear you call my name" vocal over the song's frenetic jumble of percussion. The end result is both fabulous and forward, and caps off another stellar Kingdom record.