Devil In The Distance has been quite some time coming; succeeding the 2006 releases of The Hoods And Badges EP and single I Hate My Job which introduced the genre-defying amalgamation of indie and grime - grindie. Arguably the groundwork put in by Marv the Marsh set the stage for the reinvigorated Dizzee Rascal's sound.
This digital only release isn't a million miles away in style from the Hoods And Badges EP that set some tongues wagging and probably one or two unintentional hits on the Looney Toons website. Although this album is infinitely more polished than previous releases there is still a bedroom studio quality to its contents. It gives Marv's observations the same air of authenticity that The Streets' Original Pirate Material benefited from, as well as that same retrospective, almost nostalgic, perspective.
Despite this, the content and issues are current and pertinent, for example Goodbye's line "MP should stand for mostly pricks". You can't argue with logic like that. The team of producers DJ Jack Nimble, Bob Locke and Andy Jenkins has resulted in a mash-up that takes grindie one step further by throwing a generous measure of Roots Manuva-style bashment into the equation.
The production team are clearly adept at innovating with Fight Or Flee being the prime example on Devil In The Distance. Less house than Wiley's Rolex search, and less ridiculous than Dizzee's Dance Wiv Me it's just one display of how this album finds boundaries and preconceptions before smashing through them.
The actual content of Marv's tracks are not unpredictable; violent crime, drugs, poverty, desire and anger. What is unpredictable is the calm eloquence of his delivery and the manifestation of that anger. It's an empathetic anger with no recourse and no outlet beyond itself, which is perhaps the strongest message Devil In The Distance can offer, but there's a real sense of apathy at times: "And maybe I'm just a paranoid dude/ but at four pound a ride I don't feel welcome on the tube... why bother? You can just get by."
There isn't something for everyone of Devil In The Distance, and its appeal will be limited but hopefully widespread enough to push Marv's music towards a critical mass of at least awareness. This is the antidote to unintentionally self-parodying hip-hop - but for fans of the genre it's harder to appreciate substance over style. If you can appreciate the substance then recognising and falling for the style becomes incredibly easy, and equally worthwhile.
- Azeem Ahmad
Marvin- Devil in The Distance [MusicOMH]
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