Review Summary: Time Team, while displaying shades of true brilliance, is simply an album that doesn’t know what it wants to be, and makes the adjustment to compensate for its lack of identity far too late
Whether it is a case of Gregory Feldwick (aka Slugabed) simply selling himself short, or a listener’s reaction to hearing his distorted 8-bit melodies stretched out into long form territory, but the novelty of his spastic crescendos has seemingly worn off. That perhaps the vitality of the artist rests with shorter and sharper bursts is a worrisome issue, though hardly a new one, but it does leave unanswered questions that point towards the future of the artist. Though Time Team
chooses to remain close to that which Sluga seems most comfortable with, there’s a clear case of “dumbing down”, the jagged edges of his rainbow-hued condition whittled down to a far softer point. Either maturity or a by-product of the long player design could explain away the more melancholic approach adopted here, but while there’s an obvious confidence to be found shaping and molding the soggy and dripping melodies that Time Team
hungrily embraces, the end result is something of an oddity; track by track does the album find itself being replenished and cloaked in layer upon layer of exciting new ideas, but when placed all together does the final product seem slightly pointless and lacking in the mirth and charm that defined his earlier works.
While this reappraisal has become all too noticeable of late, the idea of the anthem maker substituting immediate accessibility in the face of a more formidable runtime, Sluga unwisely segregates his more disembodied appropriations into one clear, yet separate segment. That this change in not just tempo but mood should come at such an obvious moment ends up cleaving the album in two; the electronic boom-bap of his Nintendo emulated beats diluted into a fizzing sea of low end hum and antiquated synths that choose to unravel rather than implode. It’s a misstep that gives off the impression of two wholly distinctive releases haphazardly pieced together; like its artwork, it’s an object encountering resistance, and then simply being reflected back at half the velocity. It creates interesting counterpoints and dichotomies: the funk-infused forward thrust of lead single ‘Sex’ versus the antiquated free-form atmospherics of ‘Grandma Paints Nice’. That the assertive push that’s been at the crux of his productions should find itself remiss isn’t the biggest concern here, it’s the lack of command over the more introspective fare that stops Time Team
dead in its tracks after the halfway point. There’s something insipidly endearing about his pastoral melodies and sprightly chiptune-esque mutations, but it, quite ironically, ends up putting a strain on the album’s demented yet muscular beginnings.
Which ends up making the majority of the first half of Time Team
even more of a gratifying experience than what was probably intended, that its kaleidoscopic grandiosity is destined to be so short-lived. While ‘Sex’ might co-opt Feldwick’s sensibilities into something a touch more becoming, its cruise-control-like flow of liquid bass and Casio-injected melodies only illuminate the artist’s carefree nature as the greatest of virtues. ‘All This Time’, while feeding of the wide-eyed discovery of album opener ‘New Worlds’, manages to escalate the atmosphere into a synthetic Grecian odyssey. The informal mechanical clockwork of ‘Dragon Drums’ is equally impressive, beginning as a kind of mangled tribal mantra before unfolding into a rattling percussive orchestra of pans and pots. The star of the show however is ‘Moonbeam Rider’, which manages to remain as gloriously exuberant as when it dropped halfway through last year. A kind of prismatic attempt at 90s prime g-funk slowed down to a lovers pace, it still serves as perhaps the best example of Sluga’s foundations and goals as an artist – to turn the familiar into something strange and new.
And while this is true of the album as a whole (‘Mountains Come Out Of The Sky carves its hooks from prog outfit Yes’ ‘Roundabout’), it still only works when Sluga sticks to the tried and true. When he’s not forming crunchy trap-rap ornaments or bending his computer into impossible shapes he flounders, partly because that particular product is hardly his chief export and because he’s simply not very good at being anything less than obvious. Even when he borrows from Boards Of Canada’s playbook by uniting the floating voices of a sea of pitch-shifted children into his day-glo tapestry, the results end up being bizarrely hollow. Time Team
, while displaying shades of true brilliance, is simply an album that doesn’t know what it wants to be, and makes the adjustment to compensate for its lack of identity far too late; which is odd, given how well it was doing up until that point.