Review Summary: Hyperdub strikes gold yet again. Is anyone surprised?
is the garage album of the year so far. Screw Disclosure - their pop-focused shuffling garage and house beats have nothing on Beyond
, no matter how good of a link between the underground and the mainstream Settle
was. Screw Phaeleh - his hypothermia-inducing strings can't touch Walton, no matter how beautifully frigid they were on Tides
. These aren't criticisms of the latter two albums, as both are solid albums in their own rights and probably could have been on the fast track towards duking it out for the aforementioned title. It's just that Beyond
encapsulates the grimy, mechanical sound of the ever-elusive spirit of the genre so well that it stands head and shoulders above the other two.
The term "garage" is about how far the similarities between these three albums extend. If Settle
was the sound of a festival as the sun finally sank below the horizon and the high-powered candy-colored lights turned on, and Tides
was the sound of that festival twelve hours later as the first rays of sunlight poked through, Beyond
falls somewhere around 4 AM, most likely in the middle of a marathon set. It's impressive in its austerity: the LP's backbone primarily consists of clickety-clackety percussion, functional bass, and the omnipresent buzz of static. The looped vocal samples play with this idea beautifully, as first post-intro track "Need To Feel" jumps abruptly from jazzy piano chords to a killer bassline while the vocals play blithely on.
It's this kind of subtle transition away from subtlety which makes Beyond
such an alluring listen: the 22-year-old shows such a captivating command of emotions with noises as sparse as the ones he uses that it's difficult to believe he's only been on the scene for a few years. The ravey "Every Night" samples ideas from a classic house song, but Walton weaves these ideas into a distinctly modern take thanks to the song's ultra-precise toms and shaker. The transition between the silky-smooth piece and the follow-up, the ecstasy-dripping "Memories," is another example of the kind of mastery apparent throughout the album - again, as he did in "Need To Feel," Walton slips easily from classically-styled garage to a sleeker, more urbane dance and back.
From the darkly insisting "Help Me Out" to the grittiness of, well, "Grit," Beyond
is a example of what happens when an artist totally confident in his sound and passionate about continually pushing to new heights gets the chance to make a full album to further his sound. Though it lacks the sonic depth, experimentation, and organic feel of some genre counterpoints, the album is nothing short of impressive, and easily the best garage album of the year. Time will tell what the next step for young Sam Walton is, but for now basking in the glory of an impressive debut LP isn't such a bad idea.