The Freeizm Album The Freeizm Album


Skream SkreamThe Freeizm Album

7.3 / 10


“The Freeizm Album” is Skream’s Christmas present to his fans, the ones who have been with him since the first day. It is important to comment on the subject of fidelity, because 2010 hasn’t exactly been an easy year for Oliver Jones. He has been tremendously successful, of course, with the coming out of the Magnetic Man album, the start of the tour, and the trio’s growing reach, which he shares with his “brothers” Artwork and Benga as the great phenomenon of the masses in current dance music. Waiting for him are stadiums, advertising contracts, and the hard life of going around the world performing almost every night. But Magnetic Man, and also in part the release of his second real album, “Outside the Box”, have also meant an enormous blow to his public image. I truly don’t agree that Skream deserved certain badly-intended comments, or the backlash that has been generated by some dubstep communities. He has been accused of selling out, of being commercial, of rejecting his roots, but everything that has happened to Skream in 2010 doesn’t form a part of any Machiavellian plan, but rather a natural evolution that has led him to find formulas closer to pop, rave and other styles easier to spread among the general public. And without conflicts: if there are especially boring or predictable moments in “Outside the Box” for example, they come at the moments when the dubstep is at its most purist and consolidated. Nobody deserves fierce criticism for trying to do something new.

In this situation, Skream sent out “The Freezim Album” on Christmas Day from his Twitter: a free (and legal) download with thirteen songs accompanied with his cover design, in which we recognise the old Skream more than the new. It is a way of saying “I’m still the same guy I used to be” - setting off bangers of rocky dubstep as if they were canon blasts, with rhythmic manoeuvres like something from mid-90’s drum’n’bass; here Skream appears more closely linked to the orthodox line of the rave continuum. It is the demonstration through actions of the defence that this Croydon musician used to combat some accusations of populism: he could be behind “I Need Air” and the duet with La Roux, “Finally”, but he’s also behind loads of dubplates and wobblestep buzzing handled by the hardest DJs in grime raves—the darkest, fiercest, and most purist. Most of that material is gathered here. “The Freezim Album” is a collection of downloads, unreleased works and gifts that Skream has offered (or has been saving for the occasion) over the course of the recent months, and it is his other line of work, one that started years ago with the five records of the “Skreamizm” series on Tempa. The grammatical coinciding of the titles is a clue, connect the dots. But the contents do so even more, lined up from two specific sounds: the one that has to do with drum’n’bass –“Intro”, “Back from the Zoo” (which sounds like Photek), “Lightning VIP”, which seems like the old Dillinja, the slowed-down reflex of Alex Reece’s jungle with sax in “Cold Outside”, the reclaiming of the euphoria of the Moving Shadow label in “Emotional Shizzle” – and later the one that has to do with the dubstep of war.

The inclusion of “Left the Room”, a joint with the rapper P Money, is highly indicative. Skream follows the evolution of grime closely, and he wants to be a part of the party. But in any case, it is the dubstep material that carries the greatest weight in here. There is no replacement for “Midnight Request Line” or “Deep Concentration” –they already seem to be songs from prehistory– but Skream still has the ability to create tension, to make the bass lines throb like a terrified heart and the breaks cut like swords –“Krazy Snares” doesn’t make you move your head up and down, but rather side to side, as if foreseeing that you will have to swerve a ninja star. “No Ready”, which is our star’s typical obsessive dubstep, appears right at the beginning to mark the beat and to direct a dark mood that culminates in the two incurable wounds of “CTO” and “Skwelcha”, two wobblestep takes that are so excessive that one wonders whether Skream has forced the limits on purpose to show that he is still the child prodigy that he once was. The conclusion of listening to “The Freeizm Album” is something else, though: the new Skream, the one who plays with melodies, who invites girls to sing, who makes the drum’n’bass more dynamic, and then roots around in trance and IDM, is more modern and better prepared for the coming years than the old Skream who, in effect, sounds like he’s from another period (recent, but past). “The Freeizm Album” is a notable collection of high-quality tracks that reach another goal: that of improving, even if it is only conceptually, on “Outside the Box” and the debut of Magnetic Man. If what Skream wanted was to clear his name, he can consider himself satisfied. And if he wanted to punch us hard in the stomach and head just for fun, then he can also consider himself satisfied.

Claude T. Hill

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