The city of London slips into each and every crevice of Toby Ridler’s music. It can’t be contained. It’s a liquid that soaks into all of his grime, pop, dancehall and cutting-edge clubber electronic musical constructions. He himself has said directly and indirectly that the British capital and its slippery streets are indispensable elements in the activation of his creative process. His productions are the best ally, the best soundtrack, for night-time strolls through the city of Jack the Ripper.
From 2009 until now –check out his 12”s and previous EPs on platforms like Ramp, Lo-Fi Funk, Cold Word Industries and Not Even– this subtle sculptor has managed to cover a very wide range of sounds; with room for dancing, grass, the sofa, summertime nostalgia, and even the exchange of bodily fluids. The best thing about Ridler is that he can put out a major grime hit designed for beachside bars on Ibiza, or launch a symphony of IDM, post-dubstep and vaporous bass that can kill weeds. And even though you can hear undulations in the tracks that often result from distant leaps in style, the bloke manages to give it an unfathomable, but tremendously effective cohesion as a whole. It’s Becoming Real. You know it. And there isn’t a single minute in this mini-LP that isn’t taken advantage of.
There are only seven songs and they leave you hungry for more. And that isn’t a reproach, but rather praise. Ridler’s level of inspiration is so high that one would like the album to have four or five more pieces. Because “Solar Dreams/Neon Decay” is an overwhelming lesson in manufacturing a fabric that is very rich and moderately eclectic - starting from the iconic sounds of the London underground, including grime, 2step, dubstep, synth madness and futuristic pop. Ok, there are seven songs, but each one is a world in itself, a world anchored in a galaxy known as Becoming Real. The Grand Design is at work.
Ridler is capable of putting out raging hits, such as “Lady Lazarus”, surely one of this summer’s most undeniable underground hits (if you don’t hear it in the club when you’re on holiday, then you’d better not trust your bloody DJ). But the man also does a fine job when he’s seeking out that “dubgital” fog and mist. In this sense, “Equinox” is crazy, a poisonous waterfall of cosmic dubstep that pours into your brain like a boiler of sulphuric acid, laced with cannabis. At the other extreme, I flipped over “Anthropology”; it’s ambient for cheap horror films, freezing your molars and leaving you feeling like a physical wreck, thanks to the sample of a roaring jaguar— contained violence in three masterful minutes of abstraction. But he also cooks up the melodies with care. “Slow Memory” seems like a homage to Mouse On Mars, Cocteau Twins and Burial, all poured into a celestial blender and seasoned with Alice’s vocal pop fantasy (Sunless 97). The techno bass with nitrogen of “Snow Drift Love” and “Zoning”, and the futuristic dancehall of “Work Me”, with Lady Chan, put the seal on an album that is small on the outside, but big on the inside. WTF big? Make that huge.