Friday, 23 December 2011
Review: Scenic And Advisory - Paradigm Shift
Scenic & Advisory's album Paradigm Shift is a bit of a reversal of the good-not-great albums I've reviewed recently, because rather than having a couple of awesome tracks propping up a lot of average ones, it's consistently "meh" across the board. Scenic & Advisory, aside from being the most stereotypically named drum 'n bass act of all time, are signed to Offworld Recordings, one of my favourite record labels. They are capable of some very nice tracks - Moondust from 2010 was a killer, as is the more minimal and glitchy First Sunrise they put out on Rotation Deep's "Definitions Of The Deep" compilation earlier this year. For the most part, though, they're one of Offworld's less interesting acts.
They pump out what most people erroneously label "liquid", which means smooth and melodic drum 'n bass. Except this isn't liquid, and since the album is so dull I'm going to take a moment to rant about this misnomer. Liquid, or liquid funk, was a style of drum 'n bass that became popular about ten years ago. It basically means "soulful" dnb, or housey dnb, depending on how you look at it. Diva vocals, pianos, funkiness all abound. Hospital Records and High Contrast are key names. Scenic & Advisory do none of this. Their drum 'n bass is actually atmospheric drum 'n bass - chilled, melodic, spacey, but apparently nobody uses the word "atmospheric" anymore in this context and anything that doesn't sound like a battle mech having a seizure gets labelled "liquid" just because it's a bit smooth and chilled.
Anyway, that dealt with, this is twelve tracks of excellently produced but extremely unmemorable liquid/atmospheric/wallpaper music. Good to put on while you're cleaning the house or doing some work, boring if you actually concentrate on it. There are one or two tracks that could be extracted from the dullness and sound pretty good in a DJ mix if they're bridging some other, more interesting tracks. Rising has some nice pad work and some bleepy trancey bits and Just For You was pretty good as well.
Everything about this album screams "lazy digital release", the kind of soulless, thoughtless album that gets splurged out all the time. The title is lazy - what does Paradigm Shift mean? Nothing. This is neither a change of direction for S&A nor any kind of alteration to the genre. Most of these titles are vacuous, surface-deep signifiers: "Altered States" or "Natural Progression" mean nothing, having nothing to do with any of the music. The one exception is closer, Mexican Man, which does actually sound Mexican. Other than that, you could randomise the track titles and they would have no more or no less significance. You could randomise the tracks themselves, and the album would sound the same. There's no journey here at all, no reason why the first track is the opener, or why the last track comes last and not first or fifth or wherever. But hell, you can put out this kind of album practically for free these days, DJs will download their favourite tracks from the cheese board of blandness and you'll earn a few shillings. Maybe Scenic & Advisory should think that if they put out something with a bit more effort in it it might just get into some folks' Best Of The Year lists and then lots of other people will check it out and you might actually sell lots more copies. Perhaps that's totally unrealistic, but at least a few guys on the Offworld label are willing to try.
Genre: Atmospheric drum 'n bass (Not liquid!)
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 5/10