As a founding member of the Boxed collective, Paul Lynch is one of the most important people in instrumental grime’s resurgence. As Slackk, his style adds flowing melodies and stately arrangements to the genre’s snappy attack. Lynch’s second record for R&S, Aviary, makes his early work sound amateurish by comparison. That’s not a knock on him so much as a testament to how far he’s come over the years, tightening his songcraft and sticking to simple, effective melodies.
Last year’s Backwards Light found a nice balance between the elegant and brutish sides of grime, putting acid squelches next to lacy frills. Aviary strips it down further, and the lean approach only highlights Lynch’s rock-solid arrangements. With its Far Eastern instrumentation, “Returning Geese” is a banner Slackk tune, but it’s also a piece of delicate sound design. “Hundred Light” does the same thing with horns and flutes—it’s rhythmic but more pensive than pulverizing. “Replenish” is full of bright ’80s synths padded by windswept guitars, while “Pigeons” is Lynch’s most beautiful lullaby, wielding the goopy synths of Palm Tree Fire with a gentle hand.
But Lynch hasn’t gone soft. “Swan Filters” is dark and paranoid, limping through pockets of pounding low-end, and “Skeleton Crew”‘s discordant synths scurry up and down the scales. Though Lynch has always emphasized melody, he often seemed to be learning as he went along. “Skeleton Crew” stands out because it feels mature and confident while retaining Slackk’s distinct voice. Aviary’s exquisite grime tunes highlight the genre’s curves rather than its edges, making it Lynch’s most arresting record yet.