Review Summary: Not since his debut has Roots Manuva sounds so invigorating. Not entirely throwing away his previous dark style shown in 'Brand New Second Hand', 'Awfully Deep' enjoys its pure reliance on its electronic and dubs style.
Reinventing yourself is a tough task. Not only are you bartering with your original appeal, but you’re trying to keep your fan base, whilst luring others. Roots Manuva’s inconsistent remix album Dub Come Save Me
was patchy in many places, showing only glimpses of what he could do if done correctly. His lyrical and vocal talents are his greatest strengths, yet ‘Awfully Deep’ is more of a concentrated electronic and dub offering. Mixing elements of his past towards the present (think Brand New Second Hand
plus the best parts of Dub Come Save Me
) Roots Manuva brings his presence to the forefront again.
Although Manuva transitions well from his more vocal dominant performances towards a more of a focus with electronic and dub music atmospheres, it’s odd to see this effort feel so right. Not only are the backgrounds of these tracks extremely different from his previous album releases, but they feel entirely right for Manuva to use. Take “Colossal insight” for instance, its heavily electronic and dub thumps throughout the entire musical path is extremely effective, his vocal work is still on point, but the repetitive verses aren’t tiresome at all. With these types of atmospheres and changes we witness within this album from our more traditional Roots Manuva it’s easy to understand why we don’t focus on the lyric and vocal work, instead opting towards the beat. Roots Manuva decides to adopt more production heavy album instead of focusing on a more on his traditional showcase of his lyrical talents. These cause a few problems, nothing drastic, but we notice them right away. With more back choruses and less variation within his lyrics we do seem to want more from Manuva. “Too Cold” relies heavily on this scheme; the chorus carries most of the track with a few verses here and there by Manuva. Although this is tolerable it makes the track average.
One of the few weaknesses Roots Manuva hides extremely well his dependence of the pace on his music. Previously, Brand New Second Hand
garnered a more substantial output from Roots Manuva if he didn’t try to pick up the pace with the track. “Dem Phonies” comes to mind from that album; much like that example ‘Awfully Deep’ contains those problems. Instead of sticking with his comfortable position of spiting verses with a slower paced style. His fast-paced verses feel a bit tight and unnerving; “A Haunting” and “Rebel Heart” contains the same problems of a his previous history, but even with a more developed and experienced Roots Manuva, he just can’t seem to break through. With this type of problem it’s easy to look off course with the album, but after that small speed bump Manuva brings out “Chin High”. A clear and concise classic by Roots Manuva, using his beautiful new electronic beats, extensive lyrical talent and timing the track is a fantastic highlight to an already excellent album. Roots Manuva’s chances to close out albums are enormously excellent. All of his albums have memorable endings to them. Brand New Second Hand
brought “Motion 5000” and Run Come Save Me
with “Dreamy Days”. ‘Awfully Deep’s’ “Toothbrush” offers the same great closing. The track that embodies what the album brings of new and old; lyrically Manuva is addictive as always, but the new dub, electronic and yes even drum n bass sounds become universally aware as Manuva ends it.