Review Summary: Atmospheric garage done right.
London. This huge, sprawling mass of buildings and people that dominates the landscape of South-East England has inspired countless musicians, writers and artists over the years. Its fitting then that one of the most interesting manifestations of what people are calling "UK Bass" (an ever changing blend of UK garage, dubstep, house and techno), that is the production trio of LV, is based there. Throw in the lyrical and vocal stylings of poet and musician Joshua Idehen, and the outcome is '38', a unique and varying take on life in the concrete heart of England's capital.
From the very first song on the EP, you can hear the pervading atmosphere of the album. It is mysterious, kaleidoscopic, sometimes dark but always unmistakeably urban. When I listen to '38', I can almost taste the heavy London night air that helped inspire it. The production here is flawless, with the first track 'Lost' seemlessly shifting from a echoing, ethereal intro to a heavily bass-driven main section and back again into a calm outro. LV seem to balance melody and percussion incredibly well, combining syncopated drum beats and speed garage-like bass tones with a repetative yet hypnotic synth line. The result of this is a catchy and well-made beat that accentuates the spoken word that guides the song perfectly. Other songs on the EP are also incredibly well made, such as the next track 'Early Mob', which explodes halfway through, with LV taking the spotlight and throwing down a beat that is reminiscent of some early dubstep artists.Think an upbeat Loefah or Digital Mystikz meets Distance - bassy, danceable and full of interesting synth sounds ensuring that you never get bored. The whole record is like this; exceptionally thought out and showing a diverse range of influences. One of the best parts about the production is the way that LV seem to instinctively know when to hang back and let Joshua Idehen take the spotlight (such as 'Face of God' and the first half of 'Early Mob').
Joshua Idehen, probably owing to his poetic roots, is a genius lyricist. His lyrics on '38' are diverse, but all deal with different aspects of life in London. The EPs closer, 'Face of God' is the most lyrically abstract track on the album, with Idehen throwing various images of city life at the listener, all delivered in a wailing, almost sermon-like tone, making the sparse, dark instrumentation extremely powerful. Other songs are a tad more light-hearted, 'Your Coat' being one of them, with Idehen adopting the persona of an aggressive London youth, bragging about how he's going to steal the listener's coat and make it his. Without a doubt, Joshua Idehen's most impressive lyrics are to be found in the EPs opener, the aforementioned 'Lost'. Using standard English interlaced with thoughtful and vivid imagery, he paints a picture of the disillusionment and alienation that characterises modern urban existence. Lines like "The city wears loneliness like a nasty cologne/You're the only working clock amongst a flock of metronomes" and "You're lost in the city, nah, the city is lost to you/So many voices here but so few are audible" show just how well Idehen writes, and his emotional delivery serve to make them even better.
I could go on about how precise and carefully made I think the album is, such as the segment of ambient cityscape noises between 'Lost' and 'Early Mob', which adds to the urban feel of the album in a far bigger way than I thought upon first listening. Or the complex, Shackleton-esque drum pattern that loops through most of 'Walk It', showing off the production power behind LV. Or I could try and label some criticisms on the EP for balance, but that would be a very difficult task, believe me. The only way I can do this album any real justice is simply by recommending '38' as a very strong UK Bass record, much like 2011's 'Routes' and encourage anyone interested in bass music to get a hold of it.