Review Summary: While lacking a clear direction Author still manages to consistently impress, but fails to truly live up to expectations
On paper Author
seemingly has a lot going for it; there’s of course the undeniable talent of its makers, Jack Sparrow (who turned a lot of heads with his brooding debut long player Circadian
last year), and Ruckspin (perhaps more known outside of dubstep circles as Dom Howard of Submotion Orchestra fame). And then there’s Pinch, owner of subterranean linchpin Tectonic and his claims that this might end up becoming the biggest release on his label yet. So there’s certainly big shoes to be filled here, and all early signs seemed to indicate towards this becoming yet another milestone in the mile a minute race that is the current UK bass scene; Author’s early 12” taste test certainly showed no signs in avoiding living up to these hopes with its earnest and wanton love for the dark and the furious. It was a murky and treacherous ten or so minutes dug up out of the morning drizzle of the early millennium and casually tossed into the more whimsical and prosperous world of today, and like the confused time traveler that it was it rebelled, it struck out against the glitz and the glam that’s become so common place and turned itself into a back alley soundboy anthem, a cacophonous ensemble of pitch perfect bass and skipping half steps.
So when Author
starts up in a rather calm and sunny way with the Ed Thomas fronted ‘Turn’ there’s an initial about-face, a slight yet significant hesitation as delicate and sultry tones are gently teased out in full drunken afternoon glory, the otherworldly replaced with something more befitting a chic Parisian cafe snuggled between canals somewhere. Introducing an album that tries to comfortably integrate such vast differences as gnarled and twisted bass breaks with more blue sky observing Jazz licks was always going to be a difficult affair (in fact, selling the album as a whole was always going to present problems) and to be fair, ‘Turn’ is an admirable summary of all that’s yet to come, but there’s just something a little hollow about the performance; the way it veers too close to crooning balladry as much as it does bass fodder, or how it uncomfortably dips into futuristic r&b waters like a slightly less mournful Weeknd afterthought backed up by a ragtag ensemble of sidewalk junkie musicians. And that’s perhaps the main problem with the album, the way it seems to falter at having any clear path or direction, how it seems a little uncertain of what it really wants to be. Submotion Orchestra’s work excels because the dubstep influence always feels like an afterthought, as if some wide eyed and fidgety vinyl jockey decided to insulate early 90’s trip hop in distant waves of undulating bass currents. Here it’s a main contender, fighting against the sun kissed and glass clinking fields of thought those smoky jazz sections all too quickly inspire.
So there is a degree of struggle here, as both sounds vie for the most attention, the sultry trumpets calling out in silent protest against the gritty London bass. And at times it’s an earful, as the differences don’t make for the smoothest of contrasts. There are times when a scratchy, black and white noir sensibility begins to take shape, and the echo and space that the two artists play around with only furthers that image until you begin to feel as if you’re walking the streets that gave birth to this movement, streetlights now bejeweled with halos as a deep fog begins to slowly envelop the otherwise empty streets. But too often does the album merely switch between two different takes on the same theme; there’s the hard-edged acid dancehall of ‘Mothership’ that seems to signal the onset of the night more brilliantly than a thousand buzzing lights all switching on in unison ever could, and then there’s the hazy-eyed and slightly stumbling ‘Sun’ that apes its namesake by acting as the soundtrack for that orange globe of light and warmth to slowly begin tracing its path over the sky once more.
And it’s hard to decide if Author
really wants to remain at perpetual sunrise or if it harbors a desire to be just a little closer to the ground, where the faceless crowds still make noise and the smog still clings desperately to the darkest of street corners. And Author
certainly employs enough twists and turns, where it jumps back between the two but never long enough that you end up feeling completely relaxed; which works, for a spell, but as a whole body of work you can’t help but shake the feeling that perhaps there might have been one too many cooks in the kitchen on this one, each artist only too willing to give in to the other and potentially sacrificing any critical middle ground as a result. It’s a fascinating listen, and I’m convinced that on some level it’s a hugely significant piece of work, I’m just not entirely convinced that it’s the best that it could have been.