Fusion is a difficult thing to perfect. Away from fruit sushi and David Brent doing that thing with his hands, it demands consideration, discernment and an auteur’s touch if you don’t want to ruin a few things in an often-misguided mission to create something singularly superior. In that respect, Swindle’s always been pretty fearless in taking the scattergun passion of grime and blending it with jazz, funk and sunny-side-up electronica. Those early mixtapes with Ghetts and Big Narstie, and beats for Roll Deep and Professor Green, speak to those grime roots, but Swindle’s take on London’s postcode liveliness has always been a bit more cerebral.
Even though there are no dance floor weapons this time, Swindle constantly switches the point of attack but keeps ‘No More Normal’ flowing. On ‘Drill Work’ his bright, brassy loops keep Ghetts’ typical machine-gun energy in check, and that poised production does the same for D Double E on ‘Take it Back’ and the livelier, string-laden opener ‘What We Do’.
‘Knowledge’ flicks into something a little more spoken word with Bristol’s Eva Lazarus combining with Kiko Bun’s elongated, Kendrick-esque delivery – the London-born reggae artist also pops up on the jazzy ‘Run Up’ and the soulful ‘Take it Back’ while Lazarus breaks out a little more on ‘Talk A Lot’ over Mansur Brown’s dextrously light guitar lines.
Elsewhere, ‘Reach for the Stars’ moves with a Thundercat-esque bass squelch and crazed free-form synth arpeggios, Andrew Ashong is reimagined as Chromeo doing contemporary R&B, and Kojey Radical adds a poetic turn on the tinkling piano of closer ‘Grateful’.
It’s that multi-rhythmic, multi-genre approach that makes ‘No More Normal’ such a curated swipe. What it lacks in mic-encroaching, space-invading intensity, it makes up in Swindle’s poised arrangements softening edges, elevating thoughts and bringing a rolling cast of MCs, singers and musicians with him in this impressive balancing act.