Review Summary: Work ya back
Diplo’s new six-track EP Revolution
has met with some disdain over the few months it’s been out. Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice, after a typically long-winded overview of Wes Pentz’s career, calls the release “garish” and “watered down.” Exclaim.ca’s Ashley Hampson wastes no time and pulls no punches: “You can’t help but be struck by how unimpressive the offering is.” The EP’s 2.4 average on Sputnikmusic sums up the album’s reception quite nicely: be it because of shoddy collaborations (and, believe me, I’m not one of RiFF RAFF’s biggest proponents) or a lack of limit-pushing, this isn’t the Diplo people want to hear.
It’s honestly a bit surprising that this review will go against the grain by saying that Revolution
is a timely and necessary release. Of course, we’re a long way removed from 2004, when Diplo was releasing on the forward-thinking Ninja Tune label and pushing a more mellowed-out brand of instrumental hip-hop. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, the whole scene Diplo takes part in has become far more “garish” and “watered down” than Diplo himself, and Revolution
is ample proof of that. Not to get too off-topic by bashing the whole commercially viable EDM market, but given the stagnation that’s become increasingly apparent over the course of the past few years, the “garishness” of this EP comes as a welcome relief.
And, of course, an artist can’t be good simply by being better than his contemporaries, but this brings the review to the crux of the argument: however Diplo might have arguably diluted his sound or “sold out,” Revolution
is pretty damn fun. It’s difficult to point to many artists outside of Mad Decent (and possibly Fool’s Gold) who would consider themselves part of the modern EDM culture that are actually creating any form of pure party music anymore. I mean, obviously there’s the whole argument of “but I love jumping up and down to supersaw synths over a 4x4 beat!” but in terms of setting your average crowd off there’s really nothing that works better than dirty, bass-and-midrange-laden hip-hop beats. There are probably countless studies which show exactly why hearing a rapper shout “Bend over! Work ya back! Work-work-work-work-work ya back!” is such a good pump-up, but all the research, both completed and yet to be undertaken, on how Pentz can affect levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain so severely can be summed up pretty easily in terms of this release: Revolution
Just take the massive subversion in “Crown” - a melodic, supersaw chorus with Mike Posner crooning about how he “just can’t wait to be king” gets totally flipped on its head with one of the dirtiest midrange wobbles of the year. It’s so unexpected, yet so quintessentially Diplo, that it hits the right note: the track as a whole is a wonderful example of why Diplo is so well-known (and infamous among some circles of pomposity). Much the same can be said about radio hit “Revolution” (incidentally, one of maybe three or four songs on Sirius XM station BPM this year which has actually been better than decent) and its uniquely Diplo take on the recent Epic Mashleg phenomenon. Its wonderfully trashy take on trap and cloud-rap makes it intensely alluring, and the richness of that penetrating midrange falls beautifully over Kai’s genre-standard vocals.
EP opener and centerpiece “Biggie Bounce” is the easiest explanation of why Revolution
works so well. A half-time beat and percussive synth that can only be described as “bangin’” chop Travis Porter’s rap into nice chunks while pitch-shifted vocals give way to one of the biggest main sections in Diplo’s career. Really, it’s a bit suspicious that this is “watered down” because I shudder to imagine what a more concentrated version of this sound would be - I’m not really sure how much further an artist, even one as over-the-top as Pentz, can amplify what’s available here. Barring the lukewarm “Rock Steady,” the EP is chock-full of energy and bravado., A great example of the party spirit distilled, Revolution
is a wonderful example of what dance music can be.