Review Summary: A major missed opportunity.
Noisia's reputation for collaborations is spotty at best. Sure, they had a boatload of fantastic ones with the release of killer album Split the Atom
(Amon Tobin, Joe Seven, Giovanca), but let's not forget they've also produced some questionable tunes with other artists (*cough* KoRn *cough*). So, no matter their so-far-excellent record with UK grime/hip-hop group Foreign Beggars (who also appeared on Split the Atom
), the merger of the two groups for OWSLA's I Am Legion project was nevertheless met with trepidation across certain corners of the Internet. However, the album's lead single, "Make Those Move," helped quiet fears of impending mediocrity a bit. And why not? The song is terrific. Everything that could have gone right with Noisia's foray into grimy, balls-to-the-wall hip-hop went right, and its kick-ass verses and demolition derby of a bassline ensured the song was near-perfect.
It's a crying shame, then, that the project's debut full-length is middling. The thing is a rather watered-down affair, with Noisia's talents wasted on generic beats ranging from plodding, wishy-washy half-time to trap-for-dummies 808s and hi-hat taps. I hate to make the comparison to Split the Atom
, as these two releases are very different beasts, but at least the latter actually showed some goddamn spirit
. Whereas that was Noisia alternating between dancefloor-smushing neuro wobbles and inventive broken-beat interludes, I Am Legion
sees the trio creating some seriously half-hearted stabs at the dancefloor and far too many interludes which by and large go the way of the "full" tracks. Foreign Beggars' rap skills don't exactly help the affair, either. Orifice Vulgatron and Metropolis, the two MCs of the group, deliver a thoroughly uninspired performance throughout, despite occasionally clever lyrics and decent flow. The two rappers simply sound mundane, and their normally effective arena-pumping antics fall flat here.
There are some excellent tracks on the LP. Along with the aforementioned "Make Those Move," "Dust Descends" is a classic case of Noisia in their element, and the pounding breakbeats of the neurofunk they're so good at shine through as some of the best on the album. There are also some thoroughly awful ones. "Choosing For You" is almost an insult to Noisia's production quality, as the incredibly simple Skrillex drops and post-drop 808s (think his "Goin' Down" remix of Birdy Nam Nam's "Goin' Hard) are massively disappointing. However, even with the slight crests and dips the album has going for it, the whole thing is an unfortunately monotonous and dull affair. It's fun at times, sure, and mindless fun isn't bad all the time. However, especially given what Noisia is capable of, I Am Legion
is unfortunately a step down from what could have been.