Terror Danjah's Undeniable has been a long time coming. Technically, it's the grime godfather's debut album, and it only arrives, what, ten or so years into his career? Past album-length affairs were multi-artist showcases like Shock to the System or Hardrive, and the recent free giveaway Hardrumentals was too thrown-together to be considered a proper album.
Coming on Hyperdub rather than his usual home of Planet Mu, it marks the deadly serious label's most light-hearted release yet, featuring a number of what could easily be considered pop tunes. There's been a shift in focus towards Danjah's instrumental tracks this past year or so, beginning with the Gremlinz retrospective and continuing through a streak of EPs. As a result, recent Terror acolytes might be surprised to find that a good half of Undeniable's tracks feature vocals. But while his string of instrumental releases have been by all means fantastic, it would be unfair to forget the man's storied vocal grime classics—"So Sure," "Cock Back," "Love Is Here to Stay," "Frontline," among many others—and Undeniable does a fine job of reconciling his newly-honed instrumental prowess with his gift for providing fecund ground for memorable vocals.
Stylistically, Undeniable is as all over the place as it should be. Danjah seemingly plays around with every theme and idea he's ever had in the past and throws in some new ones for good measure. We get aggressively strobelit start-stop instrumentals in the form of previous Hyperdub singles "Acid" and "Bruzin VIP," alongside softer tracks that hearken back to the short-lived "rhythm-n-grime" movement. "Undeniable" (armed with an excitable vocal from D Double E) is a celebratory love song focusing Terror's stringy pyrotechnics into dazzling fireworks, while "Time To Let Go" pings resonant chimes around a mournful vocal sample.
There's a lot of heady, defined atmosphere on Undeniable, whereas before even the most furious Terror Danjah tunes could sound inviting. "Grand Opening" trades in excitability for thick drama, all booming drums and choral vocals, and "Leave Me Alone" channels Terror's rhythmic twitch into stuttering, angry tension. On the opposite end of the spectrum, "I'm Feelin U" is positively bubbly, a garage stepper that radiates sunshine between beats. Balancing things out are some of Terror's most minimalist and abstract instrumentals yet. "Minimal Dub" pairs rude paper-thin synths with bobbing bassweight, while "Sonar (Selassi Mix)" is a reinterpretation of one of his most notorious instrumentals, inverting the frequencies and pulling it under into a sea of filters.
The album's centrepiece is its most controversial and sometimes infuriating moment, the eight-minute "S.O.S" which makes "Minimal Dub" sound like orchestral bombast. Terror revisits grime at its skeletal 2002 core, staccato drums and a single ear-piercing synth grinding monotonously until they hit bone. As the bass begins to swirl fluidly around the beat proper, "S.O.S" methodically and gradually slows until it simply halts, reorganizing itself into a relaxed house groove for its last four minutes. It's the most surprising moment on Undeniable, but the sheer irreverence is so very essentially Terror Danjah: not content to simply throw a curveball with a house track on a grime LP, he has to mould one by hand right in front of us. Listen hard enough and you might be able to hear him chuckling behind the beats.
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Tracklist: Terror Danjah - Undeniable 01. Grand Opening feat. Dream Mclean
03. This Year (Pro Plus) feat. D.O.K, Mz Bratt & Griminal
04. Bruzin V.I.P
06. I'm Feelin U
07. Minimal Dub
08. Breaking Bad feat. Baby Face Jay
09. Sonar (Selassi Mix)
10. Undeniable feat. D Double E (of Newham Generals)
11. Leave Me Alone feat. Bruza
12. Think About Me feat. Lauren Mason
13. Time To Let Go
14. Story Ending
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