Somnambule - Writing About Music

Virus Syndicate ~ Work Related Illness

Noisy, garrulous and insistent here come the Virus Syndicate, a quartet of MCs from Manchester UK. So far, so what? If the terms ‘Grime’ or ‘Sublow’ were to be inserted into the previous sentence, there’s just a chance that you, dear reader, would take more notice given the emergent reputation of these musics. The four Mancunians make no attempt to mask their northern accents, on the contrary they celebrate the sound repeatedly in vocal breakdowns while sending up the affectedly posh tones of the middle classes in occasional comic interludes. Virus Syndicate have employed the production talents of Mark One, a respected Sublow player in his own right who appeared on Rephlex’s first Grime compilation alongside Plasticman and Slaughtermob in 2004.

Opening track Slow Down begins in suitably queasy Grime territory, with stomach-churning bass, tolling church bells, distant sirens and a Carmina Burana-style choir all played out against a dark ambient backdrop. The overall effect recalls the ominous atmosphere of classic Junglist tracks such as Ed Rush’s Bludclot Artattack and Boogie Times Tribe’s Dark Stranger. It proves to be an impossible act to follow, but that’s not to say the other nine tracks aren’t more than worth your attention. Its successors are more vocally aggressive and the nightmarish atmosphere persists with pounding bass like an everlasting, slow-mo gut punch and percussion a hair’s breadth from the rattle of bleached bones. The bounce and roll of the MCs’ dissing, laydowns and reflections on the vicissitudes of streetlife are highly infectious. Their wordplay is alternately humorous and trenchant with subject matter focusing on violence, making ends meet, broken relationships and the effects of crack addiction. First time round, Work Related Illness seems noisily exhausting, but persistence reveals an enjoyably varied set of productions. If The Streets have tickled your ears, and you want to investigate something heavier, Virus Syndicate come recommended.
Colin Buttimer
June 2005
Published by e/i magazine