Preston's Rainy Miller and Manchester-Berlin duo Space Afrika have long circled each other, so it was inevitable that their sounds would collide at some point. And they took the time to consider not just how it should sound, but what it should mean. 'A Grisaille Wedding' was initially envisioned as an EP, but began to spill out the edges as the trio invited other artists from the wider experimental continuum to contribute to their careful lattice of sounds and emotions. If you peeped Space Afrika's last album 'Honest Labour' and Miller's charred 'Desquamation (Fire, Burn. Nobody)', then you'll have an idea where this one's headed sonically, but the three artists push each other, using their respective fingerprints to fill out a narrative that lashes together disparate British regional expressions.
A syllogistic distillation of the sounds that have motivated Miller and Space Afrika over the last few years, it draws a clear line under their artistic processes, highlighting the intersection between grime, drill and noise, psychedelic ambient music and concrète experimentalism, baroque orchestral echoes and trip-hop, melted club sounds and hypnotic folk. For an album that grazes so many styles, it's remarkably coherent and impeccably interconnected. From the opening track, 'Summon the Spirt - Demon', a collaboration with the shadowy Voice Actor, it's clear we're in for something special. Miller's voice is dissociated into trace syllables, before Noa Kurzweil's twitched spoken words bring a surreal lick of color, resonating over Space Afrika's smudged loops and lopsided piano licks. When Miller returns, he croons a levitational addendum, thriving in AutoTune while gesturing to cloud rap's halcyon days.
A screwed, shadow of a break makes its way to Mica Levi collab 'Maybe It's Time to Lay Down the Arms' undergirding Miller's falsetto coos. Between them, the four tiptoe around the wreckage of trip-hop without trampling the form, hoarsely suggesting its early vitality instead of capitalising on the marketability of its synch-funded twilight years. They do the same to brittle, DIY trap on 'Sweet (I'm Free)', making space for percussive rhymes from Manchester's RenzNiro and extended fam Iceboy Violet, who acidify the mood like a squeeze of lemon in a glass of sparkling water. 'Honest Labour' fanatics will appreciate celestial interludes like 'Shelter' and '1-2-1', that provide 'A Grisaille Wedding' with its narrative glue. A mangled, sampled voice ("a love is not supposed to hurt") mumbles robotically over save state pads on the former, while the latter distorts whimsical, folksy guitars into a different romantic polemic.
These weightless moments make the trio's booming collaborations hit even harder. ATL-aware 'Kill Bill' sirens bookend bobbieorkid's pitch-skewed vocal performance on the hazed 'HDIF', and Coby Sey brings levity to the blustery, orchestral 'The Graves at Charleroi', one of the album's clear stand-outs. Then, most surprisingly, Richie Culver assists the trio with 'I Believe in God, When Things Are Going My Way', a billowing epic that oozes from dystopian, timestretched club wheezes into jangly, wet-eyed slacker rawk strums. There's a mixtape worth of ideas in here, but everything's been so meticulously sculpted that it never overreaches, successfully navigating a genre-gargling contemporary aesthetic that's rarely been mastered at this level. It's a smartly cinematic, stream-of-consciousness examination of spiky British ambition that deserves to be savored, studied and cherished. It comes across like the closing of a chapter, and we can't wait to hear where they all go from here.