Few producers have done more to revitalize grime in the last year than Visionist. Alongside fellow Keysound figures such as Beneath and Wen, the South Londoner (born Louis Carnell) has helped spearhead a bit of a creative renaissance for the once-ailing genre, which is now, largely in its instrumental forms, fruitfully incorporating new influences from outside its traditional purview. In this regard, Carnell's latest release, the I'm Fine EP, is notable for its US connection. Released on the NYC-based Lit City Trax—for which he will be releasing a follow-up to I'm Fine shortly—and featuring a collaborative track with genre-blurring producer Fatima Al Qadiri, the record speaks to increasing exchanges of ideas between the UK and a new generation of American producers.
On I'm Fine, Visionist's productions stick to a fairly consistent sound, which is a distinctive blending of grime, UK garage, and the murky vestiges of post-dubstep. Fairly slow, bass-heavy, and full of sonic space, over the course of its six tracks the record is both immersive and suffocating to listen to, with a pervasive sense of dread that is only heightened by Carnell's tactfully deployed use of almost ghostly vocal samples. Opener and title track "I'm Fine" sets the score straight away with mournful vocal loops placed over simple, minor-keyed melodies and deep subterranean bass. "Lost" offers a more robust variation on a similar template, utilizing irregularly syncopated beats and viscous bass frequencies, which along with the manipulated, stuttering vocal sample lends the track a sense of melancholic freefall. Things turn a bit nastier on "Escape," which ups the tempo considerably and is propelled forward by relentless claps and an 8-bit melody that wouldn't sound out of place in a Damu track. Unsurprisingly, the song with Fatima Al Qadiri, "The Call," is the closest I'm Fine comes to the dystopic future-gazing music of the Fade to Mind and Dis Magazine axis that has recently championed Visionist in the States, but the seamlessness with which it fits into the EP indicates how close Carnell's music already is to that sonic aesthetic. With its chant-like synth line, there's a religious quality to the track that befits the darkness of the release as a whole. Visionist has had a busy past few months, having also released the Snakes EP on Leisure System in July and the self-released Crying Angels EP in June, but if anything, I'm Fine is his most compelling release yet. Seamlessly blending divergent styles and connecting the dots between ever-mutating bass-music trends on both sides of the Atlantic, Visionist remains one to keep a close eye on.