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2 January 2011

Scuba: Triangulation + Interpretations (Hotflush)

Scuba a.k.a. Paul Rose has been a contender in the realm of dubstep heavyweights for some time now, and his full-length Triangulation completely justifies his reputation. Like most artists who excel within the genre, Rose isn’t afraid to sidestep convention as much as he abides it in these tracks. The broken beat reigns supreme most of the time, but there is a lot of finesse in the production that deviates away from the dubstep formula. The dim corridor depicted on its cover is indicative of how it feels to listen to Triangulation, an album Rose himself considers an intersection of disciplines: “It’s basically the three central musical ideas of house/techno, dubstep and this weird drum ‘n bass stuff. These were the three inputs, if you like.” At times the atmosphere evokes the eerie spaciousness of Burial, although by now that is getting to be a lazy comparison. Rose’s production is much more precise, his sounds more crisp and measured. He’s also not afraid to marry the broken beat structure with something more rousing and regular — “On Deck” has a four-to-the-floor kick and more urgent bassline and synth combo to push it more toward a hybrid garage sound, with even a tinge of dirty electrohouse in its noisier synth patterns. And more than halfway through the album, there are still surprises… “So You Think You’re Special” combines a plodding rock kit with atmospheric pads and a synth melody that recalls the heyday of crunchy IDM, only to suddenly introduce a startlingly lovely gated vocal. Rose has not only created a batch of really handsome tracks here, he’s also managed to sequence them quite adeptly to make for a really engaging full-length listen. It’s a challenge that many producers don’t succeed at, even if the quality control is high, and Rose both avoids filler as well as weaves styles and sounds within one another in interesting ways to give the album a sense of completeness and a real arc.

Interpretations provides some bonus remixes plus a couple other tracks. “Before (After)” is the most straight forward R&B-inspired track fo the bunch, with a female vocal that carries it amid swelling synth chords, a smooth reprise of “So You Think You’re Special,” minus some of the bite. Remixes of album tracks tend to nudge them in the opposite direction of the style Scuba opted for on the originals, so Will Saul & Mike Monday’s rework of “Latch” moves it away from the 2-steppy Burial territory of the original into a four-to-the-floor kick and more dancefloor mixing potential. FaltyDL’s take on “On Deck,” on the other hand, moves the rhythm section away from the straight-up dancefloor sound of the original into a broken beat, then pairs it with a jazzy electric piano line. Deadbeat moves “Tracers” into deeper techno territory with an extended remix, while Deadboy cuts the time in half for his take on “Before,” lending it a very different feel from the languid original. The only one that falls flat for me is Joe’s remix of “So You Think You’re Special,” tossing out any of the drama of the original (including the vocal) and instead lightening it up to something far more 2-step and dancefloor friendly. It succeeds somewhat as its own track, but compared to the original it falls short.

Watch/listen: Before

Buy both: Bent Crayon

Buy Triangulation: iTunesBoomkat

Buy Interpretations: Boomkat | iTunes

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