Review Summary: Slugabed delivers brilliant melodies and undeniable fun from start to finish on this impressive debut full-length.
For an artist who has garnered praise for releases on Planet Mu and Ninja Tune by making a style of music that has driven plenty of other producers to huge popularity, Slugabed is a surprisingly unknown artist. The 23 year old producer from the UK has been making consistently great music since 2009, but a lot rides on his first full-length. An inconsistent or mediocre offering would likely keep Slugabed where he stands now, still somewhat successful but arguably not as big as his talent deserves, but his sound has the potential to blow up like many in the scene have before him.
begins with all its cards on the table. The two opening tracks bookend the sonic palette that Slugabed plays with throughout the album. “New Worlds” starts off with swirling spacey synths and dancing crystalized bleep-bloops before a 2-step beat drops in to launch the track into a fast-paced irresistible head-nodder. On the other end of the spectrum, “Sex” is a slower tune that’s just oozing disco funk to the point where it toes the line of being much too cheesy, but ends up succeeding in the same way that half of Justice’s Cross
was impossible to resist. Smartly avoiding any potential for the funky styles to get stale, Slugabed typically keeps them placed a bit more in the backseat. There are undeniable funk undertones on almost everything here, yet they take the forefront in perfectly timed scenarios like the Joker-esque synths that counter the somber sections of “Travel Sweets”.
The most consistent trait of the album is Slugabed’s wonderful ear for melody. Almost every track is filled to the brim with warm mids, a meaty low-end, and twinkly celestial highs that gives the whole album a happy other-worldly feel. It isn’t the first time this sound has been used, but the way it’s implemented allows the album to maintain a reasonably fresh feel. Slugabed uses plenty of the familiar frameworks, and while “Moonbeam Rider” might be an uneventful glitch-hop track that’s all too reminiscent of PANTyRAID, the groovy dubstep that brings Starkey to mind succeeds because of the impressive textural approach he uses. Album highlight “Mountains Come Out Of The Sky” is built on top of a strong but typical half-step dubstep percussion, and yet the melody and vocal track completely steal the show – building from the start until the track is ready to explode, despite little to no change in the drum track. The dominance of melody over percussive elements allows for the style to work in just about any form, and tracks like “Grandma Pants Nice” could exist entirely without percussion and still work with just its simple heart-warming melody.
There are countless comparisons to draw, but the most obvious would be that Slugabed sounds like a lighter version of Rustie - lighter because the Rustie is typically much less subtle and employs more consistently hard-hitting percussion to drive powerful tracks like “After Light”. With the memory of the impressive Glass Swords
still very strong, it’s easy to hold that comparison over Time Team
, but the lighter approach and subtlety here is what makes this release different enough to stand on its own. Where Rustie would attack the listener with intense chopped vocals and big catchy synths on “Ultra Thizz”, Slugabed uses the same elements to create a much more laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. The album typically relies much more on subtle head-nodding grooves than a completely upbeat dance-ability, which isn’t to say that the album is never dance-worthy because tracks like “Earth Claps” and “Sex” make it almost impossible to stay still, but Slugabed is confident enough in the soundscapes being created here that he’s willing to let them do most of the talking.
is without a doubt an impressive debut full-length, but it isn’t without fault. There are a couple of tracks that come and go without leaving much impact at all, and sometimes the album feels a bit too much like something that’s been done, often-times slightly better, many times before. Still, even at its worst, Time Team
is just pure fun. It’s an album that will excite listeners of just about any background; Slugabed shows a brilliant understanding of what it takes to make happy, feel-good fun.