...[[bytes of electronic sustinence]]...


Outside The Box Review and Skream Retrospective

After his self-titled debut rode the crest of the Dubstep wave into mainstream consciousness and daytime airplay on Radio 1 (and the high level of quality maintained with his five Skreamizm Eps), I was pretty excited at the release of the Croydon lad’s ‘difficult’ second album.

On listening to the first two tracks on Outside The Box my excitement only intensified. After the lush opener, Skream enlists LA rapper Murs on second track 8bit Baby. I wasn’t familiar with Murs, but he’s good, spitting with enough aggression to give tune an edge and pace without resorting to any gangsta posturing. The production on this tune is top notch, recognisable as the boy who virtually became ‘Mr Dubstep’ with his debut, but updated with a gloss of the sounds which are making bass music’s permutations so exciting at the moment.

I have always thought of Skream as a mere babe, as he produced the titanic, seminal self-titled debut at such a prodigious age, but on checking up on things, he has aged at a pretty normal rate and now can firmly be considered an adult. As a grown-up, however, he should know better than the excessive use of vocoder present on this album. There’s nought wrong with a little vocoder here and there, but you need to be very subtle or innovative with the effects or you end up sounding like you’re making a cultural nod to Dane Bowers.

Later in the album the gentler Fields of Emotion flows into I Love The Way You love Me, the title suggesting Skream is a little more happily settled than when he penned tracks such as Tortured Soul. Whilst Where You Should Be makes you squirm uncomfortably at its self-indulgent crooning, the beat of I Love... bumps along well, breaking into a little Jungle at the end. More the auditory equivalent of coming up with your girlfriend next to decent bass bins. The Jungle continues with first single Listenin’ To The Records On My Wall (trippy video below) showing a consideration for the album form with set movements and developing motifs.

Wibbler like no nonsense varnish does what it says on the tin, no fannying around, it’s squarely aimed at the dance floors and I imagine it’ll grace a few. The doomy Metamorphosis makes way for
Finally feat. La Roux, which despite having ‘single’ rather gratuitously daubed all over it is really quite decent. Without the catchiness of the Skream remix of La Roux’s In For The Kill, it’s not going to achieve such crossover success, but pop-music would be in much ruder health with more stuff like this displacing the usual drivel inflicted upon our ears.

The ever insightful Mole remarked in passing that, though possessing that sought after pop-sensibility, some of the tunes feel a little hurried despite the polished production. Though crowded with deftly programmed beats and synths to encourage heads to nod and feet to shuffle and skip across the dance floor, on revisiting the debut, it’s clear that Outside The Box doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor or the excellent Skreamizm Eps.

Outside the Box misses some the darkness and swagger off the first album, but with any debut, all the ideas that have been brimming in a creative mind find vent, making the second album a notoriously tricky affair. Skream has gone from a young man trying to break into the scene and make his crust, to a fully paid up member of the dance music establishment. So it’s understandable that some of the anger and attitude that gave birth to Tortured Soul and burst forth in the gun shots of the anthemic Midnight Request Line has now subsided.

1 comment:

  1. Really good post, totally agree with you mate. Keep up the good work. x