Ninja Tune continues its renaissance efforts with the release of Slugabed’s debut album, “Time Team”. The young producer, now residing in London after stints in Bath and Brighton, delivers a solid and mature full length that cements his position as one of the genuinely unique and positive forces in the new school of instrumental hip hop/electronic music. Having spent years cutting his teeth in various corners of the internet –from Myspace to bootlegs and early releases on established labels such as Ramp and Planet Mu– Slugabed soon became known for a rather in-your-face approach to beats, delivering the sort of productions that made you go ‘wait… what?’ – in a good way. While “Time Team” still features plenty of the childlike wonder and musical hilarity that has been one of Slugabed’s trademark, it also brings the overall production quality to higher levels and with great results.
Amid its 12 tracks “Time Team” features three previously released cuts, “Sex”, “Dragon Drums” and “Moonbeam Rider”, the latter still sounding as fresh a year on with its bouncy castle vibe and lead melody that brings to mind children TV series theme tunes. The released tracks fit nicely amid the new work, sub frequencies are equally ramped across the board and Slugabed shows a real knack for driving rhythmic energy via bass melodies as effortlessly as via drums or percussion. “Unicorn Suplex” is a perfect example of this, its bouncy bass line acts as the centre point driving the listener forward and playing a cheeky game of call and response with the cheap electronic melodies while drums are brought in and out to keep things interesting. And then there’s the name too, which fits perfectly with the cheeky, childlike mood of the album.
Perhaps the greatest example of Slugabed’s unique voice and childlike qualities of his music is found in “Grandma Paints Nice”. A more subdued production, the slap bass once more plays a central role in the track’s structure with another game of call and response between the bass and melodies. This is emphasised further by the drums being withdrawn at the end of every eight bars to let the bass ‘speak’. The result is surprisingly refreshing. It’s so simple, borderline basic to some no doubt, yet it’s exactly what’s needed in an age where too many artists and their music take themselves far too seriously. Slugabed’s honesty and cheek in “Grandma Paints Nice” provides the perfect counterbalance to it all and still manages to be a pleasant piece of music, with an almost lullaby quality.
“Time Team” is a solid album. It holds up to repeated listens from beginning to end and includes a mix of dancefloor friendly and more abstract productions showing Slugabed’s genuine attempt to surpass his previous work and build on what made him such a unique voice – the cheeky approach, the tumbling wtf beats and the raw, hip hop attitude mingled with electronic tropes. This is reflected in his new live show, which sees him take to the stage with computer, samplers, keyboard and vocoder to recreate the album’s varied moods and approaches.
A genuine offering from an artist who is evidently starting to hit his stride, “Time Team” pulls from hip hop’s swagger and ‘do what you want’ attitude as well as electronic music’s potential for creating new worlds through sonic intricacies. It’s a forward looking album that bodes well for the future.