Skream - Outside The Box
Fri 6th Aug, 2010 Music Reviews 2042 viewsin
UK dubstepper Skream is a slippery eel of a musician, refusing to stay contained in an easily definable genre. By virtue of this, he creates far better music than most. Dubstep pioneer he may be, but his style switches from minimalist beats to rowdy hip hop, as well as what seem like more commercial offerings with an eye on the charts and the dancefloor.
Having remixed La Roux, Bats for Lashes and Deadmau5 tracks you’ll probably have heard Skream’s sounds before, if not necessarily realising it. The benefits of such widespread musical affiliations come through on this LP. It’s four years since his self-titled debut and the twangy garage riffs are all but evaporated, replaced with more airy and melodic features.
Murs features on 8 Bit Baby, which sounds very much like a Murs track, with his distinctive vocals spitting out over a laidback beat. If this were an audition for the Atmosphere crew, it’s pretty successful. The man raps to the electro chords, “And this is 8 bit attack shit, the speaker doing back flips, it’s Murs with Skream and we killing all the whack shit, we murder sonically, we bully shit bionically”. On it goes; an entertaining rhyme-fest, if not groundbreaking.
Finally featuring La Roux comes in with some tribal drums, a little bangra and a little Amazonian massage music before movie score chords and heavier drums pitch in. An exciting, moving track is laid out before Elly Jackson’s lyrics come in, soothing and relaxing. Things never get beyond the chilled-out phase but this is a moving, well-constructed song. It’s an almost perfectly balanced symbiosis of the electro-pop duo and the moody, swirling, smoky sounds that characterise so much of dubstep. If there’s a weakness to the song – pleasant as it is – it’s that it seems entirely free of progression or structure, just bubbling along.
The album finishes with The Epic Last Song an aptly-titled track that veers in to drum & bass with a driving drum loop and heavy bass throb. The DnB influence is also apparent on Reflections, courtesy of co-production from D-Bridge and Instra:mental. After what’s gone before, these are certainly rousing pieces, but hidden amongst all this is also some of the dubstep brilliance Skream is known for.
How Real featuring Freckles is another dubstep meets electro-pop track, but much heavier on the former, with shades of that classic Burial sound used to such good effect on Untrue. Fields of Emotion_ meanwhile is a minimal enterprise and one of the most enchanting tracks on the album. It uses the BPM to good effect, balancing the subdued urgency with a head-nodding catchiness and strains of jazz sinking in.
Outside the Box is a very enjoyable album to listen to, but it’s so diverse and covers so many genres it may be a victim of its own smarts. Too many of the forays into other styles are hackneyed, but when Skream gets it right, he hits the nail on the head with a sledgehammer. Inoffensive and unlikely to put anyone off at any point, it lacks a signature sound to mesh the whole thing together. Regardless, it remains a strong offering.
Outside The Box is out now on Tempa through Inertia.