Henry Steinway began releasing smash club hits under the name Clockwork, producing remixes of songs by the big dogs of the EDM scene like Avicii. He found some success under the Clockwork moniker, but his connection to the work he produced sometimes seemed tenuous. He now seeks to establish himself as an artist in his own right under a new name: RL Grime. The first EP by this moniker was called “Clipz” (2011). As the name suggests, RL Grime is Steinway’s grimier alter ego. The EP much more resembled the work of a creative mind with a vision. RL Grime took the trap music scene by storm, immediately establishing himself as an important figure. Like Clockwork, RL Grime still remixes chart-friendly artists like Benny Benassi, but thankfully manages to retain his style and does not compromise his work to include flashier, shallower beats. RL Grime gained mainstream recognition through his collaboration with What So Not — the duo comprised of Flume and Emoh Instead — on the club banger “Tell Me” (2014), and his music found a home on many a frat house DJ’s playlist and gym rats’ pump-up mixes.
Steinway has now released his first studio album, entitled “VOID,” under the successful mask of RL Grime. The album features collaborations with some easily recognizable names in the electronic music scene, including trap artists Boys Noize and Djemba Djemba, hip-hop star Big Sean and the curious indie singer-songwriter How To Dress Well. These collaborations, however, only make up four out of the 12 songs on the album so as not to overshadow RL Grime’s individuality. The tracks are an eclectic mix of sounds, straddling a myriad of genres, and the compilation works perfectly.
“Always,” the album’s intro, resembles Grime’s older work from his “Clipz” EP with its more reserved, downtempo vibe. This song isn’t one to be played at a discotheque, but is instead better suited for listening to with friends. The chill vibe will be short-lived, however, as it is rudely interrupted by the thumping “Danger” featuring Boys Noize, a German producer and DJ. The track comes with enough warning, though, before embarking on its journey through the depths of deep house; as RL Grime slowly ramps up the bass, danger is imminent. It’s refreshing to see him experiment with this genre, and it seems Boys Noize helped him step outside of his comfort zone on this track. RL Grime returns to the trap genre with “Scylla,” whose powerful drops and beats are sure to make live performances of the song explosive.
The Big Sean collaboration “Kingpin” is only a minor blip on this wild ride, but it is nevertheless good to see RL Grime experiment again with another genre — hip-hop in this case. This song sees each collaborator “dumbing down” his or her own style, and the result is a very poor collaboration with a horrible chorus. From there, however, the album consists of a series of tracks without a single misstep. “Valhalla,” featuring Djemba Djemba, will stand out not only as a stellar song on the album, but also as one of the best trap songs of the year. “Core,” previously released as a single with an incredibly creative music video, is an undeniable banger.
“Reminder,” featuring lo-fi R&B singer-songwriter How To Dress Well, is another successful departure from the trap genre. RL displays maturity, depth and talent as a music producer. Finally, “Golden State” closes the album off in one of the most explosive displays since Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors hit that overtime buzzer beater against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this year.
This is what happens when RL Grime, one of the most creative artists in the genre at the moment, is given free reign over an extended album. While many may have predicted a product similar to Dillon Francis’ album, with dance track after dance track, the result on “VOID” is actually a cohesive singular piece. RL Grime treads that fine line between mainstream and unique. With “VOID” RL Grimes maintains his credibility as a trap artist, while still producing hit after hit of enjoyable music for listeners who just want to party.