Mr. Mitch's 'Primary Progressive' Continues to Reimagine Grime for New Expressions

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

On Primary Progressive, experimental producer Mr. Mitch reflects upon the contradictions of grime music and MS, "making the club both move and think".

Primary Progressive
Mr. Mitch


26 October 2018

Miles Mitchell, aka Mr. Mitch, is a staple of the London club scene. As the main runner of Gobstopper Records and co-runner of the club night Boxed, he remains in the center of the UK grime community. Yet, Mitchell's own music continues to push toward the peripheries of the genre's origins. His last two full-length releases, 2014's Parallel Memories and 2017's Devout, reimagine grime music and its expressive capabilities. Honing the more ethereal and melodic side of grime instrumentals, he redirects the genre's battles from inward "war dubs" to outward criticisms—Devout disrupts the limited mass media representations of black fathers.

Now, since releasing his last two records on Planet Mu, Mitchell has come back to his own imprint Gobstopper Records for his latest EP Primary Progressive. It has been four years since his last release on the label, but he understandably returns for a very personal project. The five-song EP navigates the struggles of Mitchell's father's battle with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Named after the specific type of MS—Mitchell explains about primary progressive­, "It's essentially the worst kind you can get"—this work of musical lamentation directly confronts the multiplicity of emotions that comes from coping with his father's condition.

Primary Progressive begins in a low-lying fog. "Restart" dwells in thick vapors, letting melodies unfold with time. Over a simple kick metronome, Mitchell steadily bows wobbling synths and delicately sings a humble talk box solo. With only a short, singular structure and minimal instrumentation, the opening track makes a strong opening statement against the conventions of club music: Primary Progressive will deviate from expectations, so be ready for contradictions in Mitchells' approach to grime music.

With every release, it becomes more difficult to categorize Mr. Mitch projects into a single genre. However, Mitchell continues to consider himself as a grime producer. "A lot of it is just me taking ideas from grime and then just doing something different with it. And I think that's just how genres expand," he tells Bandcamp Daily. His intention to progress grime music manifests in tracks such as "Settle", in which grime tropes blend into dancehall and R&B. A guttural bass pulsates underneath saturated claps; reverberated lasers and bitcrushed patters sound off like missiles in the background; and, the track feverously pushes onward with a thrusting momentum. Yet, all of these familiar grime sounds do not sit under rap verses. Rather, a soft, high-pitched vocal sample gives space for the instrumental to take over.

In contrast to 2017's Devout and its long list of vocalists and rappers, Primary Progressive offers no features. Rather, Mitchell forefronts the very personal project with his own vocals. On "Show Me", he croons, "Show me the way / You're making it hard and I'm gonna lose faith." In a whispering delivery, the candid prayer tries to make sense of his father's fight with primary progressive MS. "I find that juxtaposition between the word progressive—something in music that we'd normally view as positive—and the fact that it can also refer to degradation interesting," Mitchell says. So perhaps, this unwavering commitment to progressing grime music is a way to reclaim the word. While his father's diagnosis may disillusion his faith, musical lamentations offer a medium for recovering some control over the matter.

Accordingly, Primary Progressive remains an unfettered expression of experimentation throughout. "Phantom Dance" is an elusive take on dancehall that revolves around the interplay of composition choices, rather than melodies or beats. The playful battle between the percussive stabs and nocturnal keys teases expectations, instinctively shifting tones and swelling dynamics. "Closure" is an ambient house track that deteriorates into a soft haze. High-passed percussions faintly tap into time, while nebulous synths digress into the void. The contradictions pull away from each other until they both fade into an echoing exit. Together, "Phantom Dance" and "Closure" progress further away from grime music, yet they reiterate the EP's purpose.

Primary Progressive and its divergence from grime music's familiar aesthetics and functions does not indicate a departure from the genre. Rather, it is expanding grime music's possibilities. Mitchell's latest EP truly honors the initial streak of experimentation that led to the emergence of the style he still identifies with. So, in the spirit of the underground scene's start, Mitchell continues to practice his ethos of progressing club music, making grime music into an unbound medium that can continue its traditions in battle, or start new traditions in reflective expressions and candid lamentations.






Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.