Review Summary: Paul Rose finds himself with a case of the big room blues
If album titles should be taken as the statements that they are, then Personality
, when announced, should have had something to answer for. As an acclamation of what Scuba’s latest holds in store, it’s a reasonable candidate, given that the album plays out exactly as what one would expect Paul Rose’s spartan grayscale dubstep to sound like when re-wired into the giddy highs of Berghain. And as a way of forming distance from the monolithic slab of moodiness that was Triangulation
into the lumbering, jacked-up turn-of-the-century house Scuba now seems intent on communing with, the idea of Personality
makes even far more sense, as does the album’s creative impetus. As the owner and operator of Hotflush, Rose has long played a rather interesting game of genre diversification, blending identities and ideas of convention. But all this has come at the hands of others, with Scuba more comfortable as conductor than proper orchestrator. His own material, when riding far too closely to the vacuum-sealed techno of Basic Channel, has always lacked that penchant for recklessness; he’s always been consistent, but he’s somehow managed to avoid making his own mark, with his own music.
Whether or not Personality
seeks to change all that is undecided (though all signs seem to point positively towards this notion), the fact of the matter is that it will, though maybe not on the terms that Scuba is perhaps hoping for. While initially alienating, the album is very much a thing of Scuba’s creation, the low slung and downcast house that’s always drifted on the fringes of his fingertips simply pushed front and centre, in the process appropriating the subterranean playground of his last LP for beachside property, skirting around the tails of some hazy Babylon. The problem here is that the shock tactic, if it could even be seen as one (and the internet has already lit a number of fires regarding this already), is entirely irrelevant and ineffectual. As an artist who has spent the last year playing to larger and more varied crowds, this is really nothing more than that coveted of journalistic tropes: the “natural evolution”. Adrenalin
was a primer that should have sedated any fury, and the cover of the album is a tell-tale sign that should have quelled any expectations: the flickering and ghastly fluorescent illumination replaced by natural light. Personality
is Scuba’s emergence into daylight, his moment in the sun.
And for lack of a better analogy, Personality
shines: from its drunken arpeggiated synths, to the finger pointing rave stabs, to its almost alarming sense of focus and military-like feel of discipline. It still conforms itself around a sense of insistence, but here that sensation is more immediate, more careful and deliberate. In many ways does the album feel like a live recording, its relentless breakneck pace elaborately constructed as resistance against the ever-mutating dancefloor that lies at the producer’s feet. It’s boomingly loud club music designed for clubbers, for big-room, big-crowd endurance runs. This however doesn’t afford the album any deep kind of introspection, outside of any immediate grabs for visceral intensity. Lead single ‘The Hope’ is all shattering kick drums and throttling breakbeat, but yet it only stands out by its own obvious pandering.
Strangely enough, it’s when Scuba falls back into his old ways of subtle manipulation rather than mere crowd control when the album truly begins to shine. Album highlight ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ is a flurry of old school jungle breaks that interestingly veers extremely close to the autonomic school of ASC and Consequence. It’s a track at odds with itself, but its dangerous middle ground becomes a thing of beauty as a result of the overwhelming odds. But as a double-edged sword does it reveal the producer still uneasy about living dangerously: the initial shock of the album aside, Scuba spends far too little time being Scuba. It’s obvious that he’s set out to make a pure and pristine dance album, and in that respect he’s succeeded. But Personality
is an album born from a collection of moments; as such, it exists for the moment. While you’re in it, it becomes a thing of unrelenting and captivating beauty. But afterwards, well I’ll be damned if I can remember a thing about it. For an artist looking to reach out and experiment, there’s surprisingly little experimentation to be found here. And the irony of it all is that there’s very little personality to be had, just a solid collection of dancefloor anthems and wide-eyed club infatuation. Personality
is the ringing in your ears the morning after, when you can’t quite remember what took place, but you’re convinced that at least something happened. It’s an important album for Scuba, as a means of transition, of mastering his new craft. It’s just not a terribly important album for the rest of us.