Review Summary: While rich in character and vitality, Across The Sea unwisely tries for too much, and as a result fails to become a dominating force for any of its styles of choice
If electronic music in 2011 is to be remembered for anything, it will surely be the year that UK “bass music” made its most solidified stance for recognition. While this urgent rise has come in many different shades and forms, it’s still represented one of the most unified attacks on the music industry in recent years. Albums over the last year have come and gone, various mutations on the old and the new, some young while others merely young at heart; garage revival has dueled with house crossover, techno occasionally found itself seeping into the warm embrace of funky, and dubstep found itself a wider audience. Shawhin Izaddoost, Texas based, by way of Tehran, an artist who has patiently held out on LP demands for as long as possible, has long been at the center of this intense fervor of clashing sound designs, always choosing, however, to align himself with one incongruous sound, slowly sculpting and fashioning it to impeccable perfection.
Across The Sea
(perhaps a sly reference to his UK alliance), is strangely, however, more of a blanket statement to the countless dance mannerisms of the moment, that sees VVV assuming a variety of different roles, switching between dark dancefloor growler to more bouncy, house-infused flair. And in some ways, the dramatic changes that bullet point this album do occasionally cry out with an immediate touch of hollowness (how he seems to eagerly switch motifs to something perhaps a touch more fashionable), but there’s still an incredible touch of sincerity present that reasserts the belief that maybe Shawhim is simply in love with just too much
, and unable to trim away anything that might alter any conceivable cohesiveness. In some respects, Across The Sea
calls to mind comparisons with Machinedrum’s 2011 effort Room(s)
; and the same inherent problems that could potentially throw a wrench into VVV’s well-laid plans were what ultimately set Machinedrum’s album adrift rather than anchoring it. His intentions were a touch too sly, a little greedy, and with that admission did Rooms(s)
suffer because of its perceived lack of identity.
Across the Sea
should, by all rights, suffer a similar fate but it’s thankfully in the content itself where the album manages to pull through. How the listener approaches this album will undoubtedly be the crucial key in whether or not it will ever stand a chance though – as a whole body of work it runs the risk of simply being discarded as merely another promising album in a sea already filled with such proclamations, but for each song to be treated individually, tracks intermittently pulled out and put through their paces, the album skillfully maneuvers past the mistake of failing to give itself a proper home by revealing itself as a piece of work rich in character.
But that disjointed approach to the album fails to truly disappear as VVV switches from the ghostly paranormal of Burial-esque 2-step on ‘Jade Mountain’ into the bouncing funk of ‘Falling Low’. And while the degrees of separation between these two contrasting styles is comparatively minimal, the switch between dancehall overdose and 2am bass wandering, how it jumps from elusive to embracing, shatters any illusions about what this album really wants to be. Thankfully, Shawhin spends the majority of the album re-interpreting these distant motifs; both ‘Dolven’ and ‘Among The Whispers’ continue that charismatic brand of spartan garage, tapping into that ‘last man alive’ premise to the point where you can almost hear the echoed footfalls of a recently deserted civilization accentuating the pitter-patter of his skitterish percussion. Built on rumor and distant insinuation it borrows heavily from the template of an obvious love, substituting blatant regret for something more mysterious, and ultimately, far more substantial. But when paired up against the more insistent and obvious foot-stompers of the rave-leaning ‘Aisle Seat’, the angular and deliberately obtuse ‘Duration Of Light’ and the chic house of ‘Traverse’, those alleyway memorials lose just a little bit of their magic, their troubled mystique.
Had Across The Sea
been just a little more frugal with its ideas it ran the chance of possibly setting yet another landmark within the bass music spectrum. Sadly, its want to be a cornerstone for a little bit of everything damages it to the point where it just ends up being yet another superbly crafted album, but one that doesn’t see it rise above the waves of other similarly-styled albums.