Grotto was recorded over the last few years, and it shares ideas with prior EPs. The booming 808s and twitching hi-hats of contemporary hip-hop are a common feature—paired with sour gothic melodies on "OmBRE," or slathered with flutes and dead-eyed bell-tones on "SkATTeReD TaGS." Elsewhere, there's a whiff of B-movie horror soundtracks ("ChaMBeR MonGReL"), which are contrasted with tender moments like "HazY OX" and "LoNeLY STuDiO," whose title and pensive pianos suggest a melancholy side to Lil Jabba's hermetic existence.
None of this is surprising. Last year's Keep EP hinted at a more outgoing new direction, but its follow-up seems content to lurk in familiar shadows. That said, Jabba's techniques are only getting more sophisticated, and Grotto's standout tracks help place it high in his discography. "iNDuSTrY" is the most unexpected, its explosive percussion and rhythmic switch-ups suggesting deconstructed club music or Mumdance's fractured UK hybrids. "CaVe PaiNTiNG" returns to the jungle preoccupation of last year's "Waila," with added drill & bass edits, and "SoLeM" is Grotto-ised UK garage. It has the style's fluid swing and a mean, dive-bombing bassline, but these familiar elements are rendered lurid and weird, as if we're hearing them in the fug of a nightmare. Sounds that pass through the grotto rarely sound the same on the other side.