A Brief History of Dimlite
“Wonky,” “glitch,” “blip-hop,” “the beat scene;” or – to put it a little more simply - a chorus of bleeps and blurps over disjointed breaks and sampled drums, resounding from smoky bedrooms and teenage myspace pages the world over. When it comes to this particular strain of seemingly new music, much has already been said and written, but very little has actually managed to decipher or to understand it. Dimlite is an artist whose work on the Sonar Kollektiv label allegedly laid the foundations for the current movement, spearheaded by people like Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke and Zomby; but it’s only recently that his connection to it has been revitalized and reclaimed.
Dimlite’s music has always been about swimming upstream, dabbling a little in those murky waters of off key sound textures, bringing together elements of darkness and shade. Much like the current crop of beat smiths irking out mixtapes and semi quantized productions there is no recognizable genre tag to mark Dimlite’s work, his sound has - and always will - exist in a wilderness of his own making, measurably isolated from the music of his closest peers
Perhaps his upbringing in rural Switzerland may offer some explanations; although very little personal information exists on the web about the artist born Dimitri Grimm. Locals will tell you he grew up in the countryside in the Swiss-German region of his native land, an area renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, superb cuisine, the impossible kindness and warmth of its villagers and the total and utter lack of any kind of contemporary club scene. Under the surface there is an alternative history however: a lively graffiti movement adorned every otherwise well-kept train station and concrete hard shoulder for miles, and Bern - where Dimlite is rumoured to have been based for a time - has a rich relationship with hip hop, remaining a popular tour-date for modern day hip hop icons such as J Dilla, due in part, no doubt, to the semi-legal availability of high quality marijuana there.
The key recordings that first broke Dimlite were two 12”s, ‘Sponsored By The Alphabet,’ released on the Zurich based label, A Few Among Others, in 2003 and a subsequent 6 tracker entitled ‘A/DD’ for Sonar Kollektiv. ‘Sponsored...’ was an underground smash at the time. Caned hard on the airwaves by Gilles Peterson, its popularity relied heavily on word of mouth as music fans enthused about an artist who sliced samples as thin as miniature cucumber sandwiches, whilst maintaing that Pete Rock bounce, that Marley Marl handclap and a sense of humour plucked straight out of The Goonies. ‘A/DD’ followed suit, quickly becoming a favourite of DJs seeking to bridge the gap between the gulfs of hip hop and electronic music – it was a fresh banger, reminiscent of Detroit hip hop and of what Dabrye had done with Instrmntl a couple of years earlier, but it had an offbeat sensibility all of its own. Dim subverted the beat to a different end, as if he was half Matthew Herbert and half Terry Riley, engineered by Dr Dre.
Dimlite’s production signifiers were born with these records – mechanical clicks, found sounds, distortions and details that make the beats stutter and whirr like mechanical toys; strange interruptions that break the mood sporadically, causing the track to collapse in on itself like a house of cards. Its hip hop, but not the type canonized by tastemaker publications of the time like The Source. It was hip hop for those with a sense of humour and a complete dislike for the banal, much like the work of the aforementioned Hudson Mohawke for Warp Records. With the gift retrospect it comes as no surprise that HudMo is one of Dimlite’s most ardent supporters and that the Glasgow Lucky Me collective has hosted him more times than they’ve had a deep fried mars bar.
Other key moments from Dimlite’s discography to check out would be the albums ‘Runbox Weathers’ and the follow up ‘This Is Embracing,’ both released on Sonar Kollektiv. The former is simply essential, in particular the awesome single ‘Back To The Universe,’ with the flipside ‘In Groups To The Hydrandd’ hitting so hard it could seriously bust your speakers (note: this track is where all that “godfather of wonky” rhetoric began, with the beat in question banging hard enough to move your neck autonomously but sounding puzzling enough to have you pressing rewind over and again to properly sift through the layers). Meanwhile ‘This Is Embracing’ pushes Dimlite’s loosening of the conventions of beat making to the max, with tracks like ‘Lullaby For Gastric Ulcer’ and ‘Cosmic Echoes In The Mockery Room’ sounding like John Cleese’s rubber face expressed as a post-modern work of musique concrete.
And whilst you’re shopping, check out the All City 7” ‘Quiz Tears’ - which seems to have passed everyone by last year; his remixes of the always over-emphasised but still very worthy Flying Lotus, and all the stuff he did under his Dadaist alter ego Misel Quitno, whose dress sense I seriously admire. A sense of fun, a disdain for the obvious and a fart in the face of rhythmic convention is what Dimlite is all about.
Now, dim the lites and lets listen...
Download: Dimlite - Béjart [Brainfeeder LDN Exclusive]
Catch Dimlite at RBMA presents Brainfeeder London next Wednesday (10/03) in Room One, appearing alongside Flying Lotus, Kode 9, The Gaslamp Killer, J Rocc, Martyn, Daedelus, Nosaj Thing and TOKiMONSTA.
Look out for a Dimlite project on Now-Again Records, which should be dropping any month now.