Even before “Songs” was released, controversy surrounded the album, due to a dispute between maker and label. After Mad Decent offered it up as an online stream on the Mixmag website, Rusko went into a rage and started to slag off the American label on Twitter. Although things seem to have calmed down a bit, the hostilities aren't over yet, especially on the side of the British producer, who has sworn revenge.
When the start is so rocky - when the sabres are rattling right from the get go - the records usually suffer. However, when one of the parties is Rusko, hurdles like these can promote reaffirmation and ultimately prompt defence of your product. I'm with him. You have to protect your work, to give it away like that is unacceptable, even more so when the material is this good and expectations are this high.
Rusko's second album, the follow-up to the sulphuric “O.M.G.”, was made to reach higher than its predecessor. I'm not talking about the reviews - as I'm sure that many critics won't like danceable swank - I'm talking in terms of growth, ambition, hunger, and mass. It's common that in the rhythm section on “Songs” we find a bit of rave that gives the tracklist a delicious whiff of retro euphoria. As my favourite music journo Mónica Franco says, melancholy is a hard drug and it's free to boot. Therefore, the rave sounds, the old school breaks, the cheesy pianos and the Eurobeat vocals of “Somebody To Love” and “Whistle Crew” taste like honey; oozing teary-eyed nostalgia for those of us who lived the Summer of Love, and fitting ever so well with the derivations of raging dubstep. There are some Jamaican accents, too, as is usual in the Briton's work. Though I'm against the abuse of those smoking sounds, I have to admit that “Roll Da Beats” has left my neck in a shambles.
In any case, where Christopher Mercer wins is in radical mixology; the tracks on which he links the crudest dubstep with digital beach house, affected female vocals, dancehall lashes and Miami synths. “Opium” is the paradigm of Rosko madness, as is the brutal “Asda Car Park”, unappealable proof that AarabMuzik wasn't wrong when he mixed ultra-commercial trance with saturated gangsta beats. They said he was crazy, but it turns out he's the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Yes, Rusko likes to slam the door in the face of the purists - giving them the finger - hence the summery house tunes with pinches of grime, such as “Pressure”, also with female vocals from the Age of Thrills 'n' Pills. If there's one thing our man from Leeds does right, it's creating a sound that is both radio and dance floor friendly, without losing the dirty bits and rusty edges of his earliest electronic manipulations. He even takes his Ibeefa side to the extreme, delivering epic trance with retro synths that could be on any Sasha record. I'm talking about the huge “Thunder”, a hooliganesque hit that will be playing at the wildest Lloret bars this summer. Summer needs an album like this.