Monday, October 16, 2006

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Skream!' by Skream

'Every time I think about an album I think of reasons not to do one,' said Mala from Digital Mystizk in a recent interview in The Wire. And I'm afraid Skream may just have given him one reason more.

Of course, Skream had a near-impossible task. Unlike Burial and Kode 9, he couldn't give us something shadowy and introspective – Skream's followers want something that hits as hard in the club as it does on headphones. Few dance producers know how to sweep that dichotomy aside, and, in 2006, most of those that do are making techno (see Ellen Allien or Claro Intellecto or Monolake).

So Skream keeps it varied. We get DMZ anthems ('Midnight Request Line', 'Rutten'), vocal tracks ('Check-It' with Warrior Queen, 'Tapped' with JME), cheery head-nodders ('Dutch Flowerz', 'Summer Dreams'), club weapons ('Colourful', 'Stagger'), and filler ('Kut-Off', 'Auto-Dub'). What we don't get is classics like 'Lightning' and 'Deep Concentration', presumably because Tempa didn't want to repeat anything that's already been in either of Skreamizm double-vinyl packs. That's a shame, because, for better or worse, a lot of people buying Skream! will have heard about it from the Observer or the Telegraph, and they need to be hearing dubstep at its very strongest if they're going to stay interested.

Still, 'Midnight Request Line' sounds as extraterrestrial as ever. 'Rutten', the one with the leaping flute and simmering bass, is here in a stripped down version (hence the name change from 'Rottan') – but Skream almost ruins a perfect track with some fugly MIDI brass that you'll also hear on 'Dutch Flowerz'.

'Check-It' switches between wonky reggae and brutal dancehall, with Warrior Queen both singing out of tune and rapping out of time but still somehow holding her own, and I've never heard anything like it. 'Tapped' is less of a success. The instrumental version is another classic - Mala even stuck the 'Anti-War Dub' acapella over it at the last DMZ – but JME comes up with some very lazy bars here, repeating the hook ('Sometimes I think back/ Some days I felt trapped/ My line's been tapped') until it's worn right through.

The really contentious tracks on this album are going to be 'Dutch Flowerz' and 'Summer Dreams'. 'Dutch Flowerz', with its double-time skank, fairy-lights synth, and sunny guitar, has been doing the rounds for a while, and it's not a bad way to break up a DJ set of claustrophobic bassbin beasts, but in an album context it utterly fails to justify its existence. And 'Summer Dreams', eight minutes of flaccid saxophone over a rudimentary garage shuffle, is even worse. (Can it really be that Skream, anticipating the inevitable mockery, has deliberately started this track with the sound of chatter in a bourgeois wine bar?) Some people see this as a tribute to two-step, but real two-step was never as bloodless as this.

The remaining tracks are B-side material, really, although 'Stagger' packs a punch. So Skream! doesn't add up to much – Olli Jones has played the album game and lost, like dozens before him. Except I wouldn't be saying that if Skream were an unknown, rather than the purported ambassador of dubstep and saviour of British dance music – in that case, I'd be praising this LP – meaning that, Skream, at 21, is already an unfortunate victim of his own hype. A strange thing to be in dubstep, which is meant to be the genre that hype forgot.


Released 27/10 on Tempa

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi, i was browsing for info on skream and found this review.
just wanted to point out that on the track "summer dreams" it's not a saxophone playing but a trumpet (by Martin Shaw).
and indeed the album was dissapointing but on the other hand, albums are not the best format for dubstep, or any electronic dancemusic people go out to really... that's why proper dj's are so important! and skream knows how to please the crowd!!