Album of the Week: Stream Rudimental’s EDM-Pop Masterstroke, ‘Home’
A track-by-track interview with the U.K. chartbusters before they own the States
“Yesterday I met [Chicago house producer] Roy Davis Jr.,” says 27-year-old Rudimental producer Amir Amor from his London studio, beaming about crossing paths with a dance-music pioneer. “Can you imagine? We also got pissed with Disclosure last night. Proper drunk.” These days certainly seem charmed for Amor and his three bandmates — Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden, and DJ Locksmith. They’re currently celebrating hitting No. 1 on the U.K. charts with their debut album, Home, while waiting for its U.S. release next week. The group is part of a wave of similarly minded London-grown acts and have, like their buddies in Disclosure, morphed the city’s long history of underground dance music into a soulful, postmodern strain where drums from drum’n’bass, jungle, and house music are as equipped for easy listening, club-shaking, or pop domination. “The music scene is very tight and supportive here,” says Amor. “We get compared to Disclosure and AlunaGeorge too, but that’s cool! We’re all so close….What’s different about us is that we’ve always been a live act. We are an electronic act, but have nine people on stage during our shows. We’re very much a band and operate like a band, which is something I love.”
Two years ago, the four group members who eventually would constitute Rudimental were still a disparate hodgepodge of working DJs and producers who had never crossed paths. The band members had a coincidental run-in at Amor’s studio Major Tom’s and immediately bonded over a shared love of outsider soundsystem culture in their hometown of Hackney in East London. “The cover of our record is a mural that was painted in the ‘80s during the riots in Hackney and it shows the carnival that takes place. Our parents were there and there are people we know in the painting. But more than that that, it’s representative of the culture clash we grew up in. Caribbean music really comes out in our horns. Reggae and dancehall picks up in the groove. There’s a soul that we try to reflect too. What you hear on the album is really representative of our hometown.”
And while Rudimental hat-tipped dancehall soundclash culture with an early release of “Deep in the Valley” featuring MC Shanti back in 2011, Home presents more explicit references to the group’s roots. The album’s first release, “Feel the Love,” featuring John Newman on vocals, whips a frantic jungle beat under soaring organs and an uplifting trumpet solo. Deep-house vocals also run all over the album, and “Spoons” and “Baby” use smooth, soaring hooks to create garage-influenced bangers. We had Amir walk us through this LP of boundary-pushing, genre-slicing EDM-pop on its way to conquering the U.S.
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This song is really about growing up in Hackney. Our music is reflective of where we come from — the house music, the club culture, the soul side of it, the reggae side of it, the hip-hop side of it. That really represents our home and what we’ve been hearing growing up. We say this on tour, but we try to bring our backyard to our shows.
“Feel The Love,” feat. John Newman
This is a good introduction to what Rudimental is. Mark Crown did the horns, I did the bass, the church organ is Piers, and all the electronic elements we put together as a group. It speaks to what Rudimental was at the beginning. When we were DJing and mashing up different things, it was hard to sell and took people by surprise. Someone would expect us to play dubstep and we’d play house music next to Marvin Gaye instead. We were kind of outcasts, so the love people had for this was crazy. We’re jungle music fans and this isn’t your typical drum’n’bass tune. And it caught a lot of people off guard before it became big.
“Right Here,” feat. Foxes
This is our festival song, it’s just a jam. It’s got those steel drums on it. We were in a really festive mood when we made it. The way I imagine it is like taking a drive into the sunset in the Caribbean or somewhere. It’s perfect for summer.
“Hell Could Freeze,” feat. Angel Haze
Piers’ little sister sang the hook on this! And that’s Piers playing the piano. Funny enough, we recorded this on the phone. The vocal that you hear is crunchy and stuff because we just literally recorded it on a phone really quick. We actually work with a lot of rappers as producers individually. I’ve worked with Wiley, I’ve worked with pretty much all the grime people because Piers and I are really into the UK grime and hip-hop scene. Most of what we did before Rudimental was hip-hop influenced, so working with Angel wasn’t anything new. You know she’s a really good singer. She keeps that under wraps but she’s really talented in singing as well.
“Spoons,” feat. MNEK
We have a studio that a lot of people come through and so we’ve become a family. You know Duke Dumont and AME’s “100%” was done here too. I was actually eating my lunch and threw out an idea that I would put some hi-hats on it and I started tapping a rhythm out with my spoon and fork and it sounded sick with the track. We actually just recorded that; my playing the spoons while I was eating lunch. MNEK just came in to say hello and the track was playing in the background and he just started humming a melody. He heard this whole topline in his head and he started singing it and we recorded it. It was so cool how easily and fun it came together.
“Hide,” feat. Sinead Harnett
Sinead is such a wicked songwriter and has such a beautiful voice. We have a lot of love for Black Butter [record label], though we actually know her from before that. But Black Butter is how Rudimental came together. I was working at my studio and the folks there introduced me to the other three two years ago. We realized we had a lot in common musically almost immediately.
“Powerless,” feat. Becky Hill
We actually initially wrote this song with another singer, Anna Simons. It was in our hard drive for six months or so before we met Becky. We met her because we overheard her singing next door when she was working with MNEK and we immediately were like, “Who is this girl?!” We knew we needed her and that she would be perfect for “Powerless.”
“More Than Anything,” feat. Emeli Sande
When the Guardian compares you to Massive Attack that’s a big compliment, of course. Massive Attack are a huge influence on us. We used to go to parties up in Bristol all the time. The soundsystem culture is big over there and Massive Attack was a soundsystem before they were a band, so we admire that. We’re obviously a couple of generations after them but they influenced us even in the way they stayed behind the scenes and had this sort of mystique about them. When I first heard “Blue Lines” I couldn’t even imagine what the human being who made that could look like in real life. They were god-like. Or robots. The whole atmosphere they created around their music was wicked.
“Not Giving In,” feat. John Newman & Alex Clare
This was written about our friend who was not doing well. He was close to the edge and tried to kill himself. We were in quite an emotional place at that time and wrote this song about him. We wanted to relate about this guy who was going through something but also give it an uplifting message to make you feel that you don’t want to give in. We saw this YouTube video of this kid who is the kid in the video for “Not Giving In.” So our video is the true story of this kid, this little Filipino kid, who was just kicking ass in these b-boy competitions. We met this guy Bboy Mouse who is this world champion b-boy who told us about the kid’s upbringing and his story. And then we sent him and a camera crew to recreate the story. Everyone in the video is part of the kid’s real life; those are his family and his friends and that’s his home village. It was a really important song and video for us; to show that wherever you are, you can be at home and not giving in.
“Baby,” feat. MNEK & Sinead Harnett
This is absolutely my favorite song on the album, as well. Yeah, this one definitely went house instead of drum’n’bass or garage or jungle. The instrumental is actually a track we’ve had finished for a long time and we were playing out at our DJ gigs. It was a straight house song. When we were putting the album together, we had gotten a lot of positive feedback about the instrumental so we pulled MNEK and Sinead on and it actually went a few different directions before landing this way, but it felt right as a house track and so it stayed that way. I love it.
“Waiting All Night,” feat. Ella Eyre
We’re very picky about the voices that go on our tracks. We waited on this song for a year; we just sat on it looking for the right voice. Sometimes you don’t know what songs will ever leave your hard drive when you’re looking for a voice. And then Ella came to us and she was the right fit for it.
“Free,” feat. Emeli
This has actually got the same kick drum as “Spoons.” The loop of singing and the acoustic guitar is something that I had kicking around my brain for a while now. It’s a bit strange, I imagine. Because it’s just a really simple song with an acoustic guitar and Emeli and us just writing on it. It’s so different from everything else; we almost didn’t put it on the album. But when we polished off the track and sonically warped it a little to fit the electronic sound of the rest of the album, we felt we had to include it. It’s a very powerful song to us.