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Earl Grey – // French Exit Review

Fresh off the back of our highly anticipated premier of leading track ‘After They Turn The Rigs Off’, we’ve delved into the latest EP from the don that is Earl Grey. The Mancunian maestro is back with French Exit, his third release on the left-field Inperspective records so prepare yourself for another fire serving of forward thinking, label defying drum and bass.  

Opener ‘False Horns’ throws us headfirst into an unsettling world of hypnotic breakbeats and off kilter keys. There’s something deeply unsettling about the way this track creeps and ebbs forward with the contorting layers becoming ever more complex. It’s a futuristic, almost nightmarish soundscape punctuated with otherworldly horns that swirl and make you feel like you’re falling deeper and deeper down a very twisted rabbit hole.  

After the darkness of ‘False Horns’ comes the relative light of ‘After They Turn The Rigs Off’. With its abstract sonics and dizzying turns, this track is no less experimental but its choppy breaks give it a classic jungle bounce that puts you in much more comfortable territory. The incoherent babble of the opening vocal samples seems to be a knowing nod to chatting absolute breeze at the end of the night and the whole tune could be seen as a musical ode to a blissed-out state.  

Things take a much more chilled turn with the ambient ‘Mime Jar Lens.’ The splashy breaks are a masterclass in drum work and the tune manages to have both weight and enough space for the hypnotic chords to shine through. The twisting journey then continues with the title track which is another dark exploration of drumfunk infused with hallucinatory atmospherics before the contrast of the lighter ‘Lessons Learnt’.

The EP closes with the rolling ‘Hypothermic’ which somehow does the impossible task of blending all the various shades and tones Earl Grey has delved into throughout this release and the result is a piece of near perfect progressive jungle. 

French Exit is a seriously accomplished record. It’s the work of a producer carving out his own sound and direction. It’s unique, original and superbly crafted. But was it always enjoyable? Maybe it’s because my musical palate isn’t refined enough to truly appreciate all the nuances of this release but there were moments where I felt it crossed the line into the truly abstract and it felt a little bit like that episode of Spaced where Tyres can’t stop dancing to the kitchen appliances (get to know kids). That said, there are far many more examples of where French Exit gets it very very right and when it does this EP is nothing short of mesmerising.