In 2016, an explosive and symphonic trend in electronic beat music was developing online. Between deep trap instrumentals, forward UK bass and Jersey club, this hybrid sound would go on to be reinterpreted by various producers and groups, one being Silk Road Assassins. Since 2014, this trio of London producers has charted the future of grime with echoed gunshots, Metal Gear Solid samples, and mechanized hits that fade in the distance.
Returning once more to Planet Mu, the label that gave them the creative platform to release their first album, Silk Road Assassins are back with State of Ruin. This new album sees Tom E Vercetti, LoveDr0id, and Chemist pushing their wavey beats into a virtual reality landscape marred by glitchy stutters, broken hits, and ghostly cries from crushed drums. The continuous vibe is ethereal, foggy, and reflective; often times the elements within the 14 tracks fade away and the space is allowed to transport the listener right into the center of the environment.
The album opens with a mechanized punch in “Overgrown” as ambient soundscapes slowly roll open into the mix and a new world is revealed. Images similar to the machine world from The Matrix Revolutions are conjured within the intense mechanized atmosphere. This first track is purely an ambient score: lasers charge, rain falls, and engines roar to life. “Split Matter” is where the action begins to accelerate into a noticeable rhythm. This second track features Planet Mu wingman Kuedo, whose Bladerunner vision comes center stage as ethereal chimes and cinematic chords sing with sadness and loss. The kick bumps and the snare crashes as upward arpeggios rise towards the skyscrapers of New Los Angeles before the track fades away into the fog.
In “Armament,” deep basslines churn around a crashing clap propelled by thick kicks and glacial synths. The air is cold and the vibe is personal; this third track is the point where the motif of State of Ruin becomes mostly clear. This track clocks in at three minutes and 30 seconds and firmly summarizes how the majority of the album is heard. While there are a few tracks that deviate from the meditative and cold grime depicted in “Armament,” the majority of the album follows in a similar fashion.
“Vessel” opens with a sad ambient pad dragging until detuned arpeggios and trashed drum breaks end the silence. This track has some of the most modulated textures and encapsulates Silk Road Assassins take on grime club hybridization. A ghostly choir sings in harmonization with the acidic arp that scampers from low to high. This energy is continued in “Familiars,” which features a choir that yells out in resistance to the continuously rising high-end synth. Many of the tracks carry a similar structure and progression, a dance between human elements and futuristic sensibilities.
This trend is broken in “Shadow Realm,” a monstrous track featuring the Russian duo WWWINGS. This track was first created years ago between the Assassins and WWWINGS when Lit Eyne was still a member of the band. Gothic, dreary, and dystopian are the best words to describe “Shadow Realm,” and much of the album itself as a whole — this is grime built to last. Listen to State of Ruin below.