Scuba ‘Personality’ – Review

22 Mar

I was introduced to Scuba through the mix that he made for the influential DJ Kicks series. I was impressed by the journey Scuba took me on; Not only does he knows the art of sequencing a mix to perfection, but he also managed to turn me onto sounds and styles I’m not really familiar with. It’s therefore interesting that I should like ‘Personality’, an album produced from scratch by Scuba, for the same reasons that I liked his DJ Kicks Mix, as it takes you on an equally fascinatingĀ  journey. This is techno via dubstep via house that is in turns melodic, dark, retro, futuristic, fun and classy.

After a shaky start (opener ‘Ignition Key’ is all over the place, second track ‘Underbelly’ stalls the record’s momentum) the album settles into a routine of being predictably unpredictable. By that I mean you don’t know where Scuba is going to take you next, but you know it will be interesting, and different to where you’ve just been. You also know that any given song is likely to feature cut up vocal samples (that work particularly well on ‘Dsy Chn’ and ‘If U Want’ but can be distracting and occasionally cliched at other points) and that at some point most of these tunes are going to descend into big beat, bright synth bangers (check out the euphoric synth that sounds like a sunrise halfway through ‘Cognitive Dissonance’).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Scuba (apart from making me listen to dub-step again, a genre that I lost patience with a while ago) is that he manages to sound futuristic whilst sounding retro. On a song like ‘Tulips’ he uses a classic 808 beat, cheesy 1980’s keyboards, an old school rave vocal sample, and some atmospheric digital tom follery that’s been borrowed from dubstep. Like Rustie’s fantastic album ‘Gold Swords’, ‘Personality’ is a success because it can’t be kept in any generic or periodic box; it’s everything that has come before it as well as everything that’s still to come.

Whilst it lives up to its title by exuding personality, what the album lacks is something deeper – it lacks real emotional depth. It puts you in a mood, but it never makes you feel anything complex. Of course the argument would be that Dance music isn’t meant to connect on a deeper level; this is music for the feet rather than the heart, music to help you forget, not music to help you remember. But the fact is that ‘Personality’ comes so close to meaning something significant, that I can’t help but regret the lack of soul. The likes of James Blake, Mount Kimble, Burial and Seplacure have made great waves for Bass music in this department, and Scuba comes close to joining their ranks. He remains one of the most exciting prospects in dance though, and ‘Personality’ is his biggest success to date.



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