These setbacks might help explain why the dazzling promise of his early music was never quite made concrete. A stoner from Georgia who discovered grime on YouTube, his first hits, "Stacks Riddim" and "Drum Track," synergised the rhythms of a decade- and continent-spanning dance music canon (grime, UK funky, Ron Hardy, Jeff Mills) into shockingly fresh club tools. In 2018, reams of producers are doing this sort of thing with an ever-expanding palette of global styles. But with a few exceptions, Helix's scant releases since 2013 haven't kept up with things, nor otherwise developed his distinctive style. Maybe there are surprises due later in this three-LP set. But on Greatest Hits Vol 1, a "summary" of his sound featuring all new material, there's little we haven't heard before.
Even so, a bumper pack of new Helix tools is no bad thing, and a few tweaks to the formula give his music a long-player flow you might not have expected. "Diskochop"'s spuming chords make for a dramatic opener, and there's a midpoint string of tracks where the relentless drums give ground to moodier synth work. Of the three—"Techno Trak," "Untitled E-Mix" and "Dick Track"—the last is most striking, its seedy vocal sample interrupted by a chord breakdown worthy of Jam City.
The rest of the album dispenses with even these simple embellishments. ("It may sound unfinished to a nerd loser ear," Helix says of his style, "but they're all club-tested and do exactly what they need to do.") Some of these straight-ahead bangers are excellent, like the "Tainted Love Remix," which alternates between sultry pout and wild percussive overload, and a blistering "edit" of "Beat I Made In Miami," whose tom-toms and punishing flange pay homage to early Chicago jack tracks. Others, though, sound tired. The "Drum Track" premise—airy chords stuttered over pistoning percussion—has been endlessly riffed on by Helix, his Night Slugs colleagues, and their hosts of admirers. The back-end run of "DX Crowd (Chordy Version)," "The Chord Beat (Edit)" and "FBM Flip" will sound exciting if you've not been following that world. If you have, you might be hoping for bigger surprises on volumes 2 and 3.
Mon / 5 Mar 2018
01. Disko Chop
02. Tainted Love Remix
03. Tough Linns (The Money Machine Beat)
04. Techno Trak
05. Untitled (E-Mix)
06. Dick Track
07. Beat I Made In Miami (Helix Edit)
08. DX Crowd (Chordy Version)
09. The Chord Beat (Edit)
10. Fbm Flip
11. Drum Track (P Jam Bootleg)