A year after, GRUM’s album ‘Deep State’ is finally out | Review
About a year-long wait. That’s how much time took Anjunabeats to release GRUM’s sophomore album ‘Deep State’
Sometimes we – journalists, bloggers, & co. – tend to overuse the expression “eagerly awaited”, I admit it. But this won’t be the case, I can guarantee you, because we’re going to talk about a year-long wait. That’s how much time took Anjunabeats to release GRUM’s sophomore album ‘Deep State’. A lot, isn’t it? Shall we find out if it was worth the wait? Let’s get it then…
But first, a little introduction to GRUM and his music. Hailing from Glasgow, Graeme Shepherd specializes in the various forms of Progressive, sometimes with a more cheeky approach, sometimes with elegant and low-key progressions, but always delivering a product of the highest quality. He released his first album, ‘Heartbeats’, in 2010, which reached the top spot in the iTunes Dance Albums chart, gathering support from the industry’s heavyweights; he later joined Anjunabeats, world-leading Progressive Trance label, to release several singles that cemented his role as one of the most interesting rising producers of the genre. His second album, ‘Human Touch’, was due to release in 2014 via Glasgow Underground, but was then canceled after a series of delays, showing that the Scottish producer doesn’t have a good relationship with LPs. Jokes apart, his new album is finally here, so let’s dive into it.
‘Deep State’ unveils itself with the homonymous opening composition, a synth-centered virtuosity that properly sets the ground for what’s to come next and perfectly flows into the dark bassline of ‘Stay’, the leading album’s single, which we discussed here. GRUM heightens the level of euphoria with the driving progressions of ‘Lose Control’, which is still a bit undertone when compared to the central part of the album.
Dom Youdan sings of a flat, wretched life in ‘Tomorrow’: dark brasses accompany his wailing, but then more shiny elements rise up, hinting that there will be always hope for change. ‘Home’ is way more laid-back than all the other tracks, at least until the incredible synth arpeggio in the breakdown, as loud and euphoric as you can possibly imagine, which then pours into a raw warehouse techno attack.
GRUM’s tribute to the golden era of Trance music, whose key elements we found in ‘Genesis’, is granted to become a showstopper in his Deep State album tour, which opened up at The Steel Yard in London. Next up is ‘The Ascent’, which really stands out in this album despite the general high level of all the compositions. With its’ epic breakdown paired to the driving Tech Trance shape, this track is created for a sole purpose: doing damage. The vocal sample from Blue Öyster Cult’s legendary ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ adds a more than welcomed little twist.
London-based vocalist Jinadu performs majestically in the utterly euphoric ‘Running’, another granted mainstage weapon. ‘Altered State’ shows off an emphasized Acid sound, a constant presence throughout the entire album although not in such a preeminent way. The closing spot is worthy entrusted to ‘Afterglow’ featuring Natalie Shay’s uplifting vocals, which concludes this solid album with a typical GRUM-style Progressive tune, taking us back to his earlier productions.
So back to the initial question: was ‘Deep State’ worth the wait? It definitely was. GRUM has accomplished something great: revamping a genre – Progressive House – that seems to be founding itself in a sort of dead end since the EDM boom, with a lack of innovation that few genres had before. By fusing euphoric leads with early Trance, Techno, and Acid elements, GRUM created an album that is extremely solid and variegated, and features tunes suited both for clubs and festivals, and partially home listening too. It is not perfect, though: some technicalities are all but impeccable and the mastering on some tunes (I pick ‘The Ascent’ and ‘Running’) made me wonder if a year-long wait for an album that was supposed to be finished was really necessary. Technical criticisms apart, ‘Deep State’ is certainly one of the best EDM albums of the year, in which GRUM demonstrates all his full songwriting potential; we hope that this is only the first step of an even brighter career for Graeme Shepherd.