Album Reviews

Blockhead – The Music Scene

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 18 January 2010

Blockhead - The Music Scene Three albums in for Ninja Tune, and Tony Simon’s career as Blockhead is really starting to realise its potential. Not that records one and two were in any way shabby, but this new piece of work advances his thinking considerably, looking well outside the box of tricks he was working with last time. He modestly puts this development down to the use of Ableton, which he says has allowed him to work between multiple beats rather than using a standard template, usually derived from hip hop, to form the back drop for his tracks.

That would explain his ability to segue almost effortlessly from hip hop to drum and bass in the course of opener It’s Raining Clouds, a trick he manages without an ounce of cheese, the same riff powering both parts of the track.

There is more emotional input here too. While this is a quality his previous work did not lack, a piece of work such as The Daily Routine, whose stand-out sample is arguing drug addicts, packs a powerful punch as it chooses to stare the issues of the day in the face, rather than shy away. It’s a striking track, the like of which you’ll surely not have heard before.

Happily this is countered by more humorous asides, such as those found on the spacey Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer, or those built on well constructed riffs, such as the picked guitar refrain that powers Attack The Doctor. This gives us another example of a clever way to structure a short attention span, a well packed collage of sounds and styles that breaks into choral song half way through before returning to its original riff.

Other influences make themselves known, from Arabian strings through to Blaxploitation music, suggesting a record collection on the scope of artists such as Thievery Corporation or DJ Shadow. But Blockhead is far from a mere imitator, either of those artists or of his record collection, so that the influences are taken in to his overall approach.

An auspicious start to the New Year and decade for Ninja Tune then, picking up where they left off in 2009. For Blockhead, this album would seem to open up a whole new realm of possibilities, showing as it does an ability to break out of the confines of hip hop, which he had already mastered. Eclectic, calming and yet strangely energetic, his music is well worth getting acquainted with.

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More on Blockhead
Blockhead – The Music Scene
Blockhead – Downtown Science
Blockhead – Music By Cavelight