"The Music Scene" by Blockhead

Blockhead
The Music Scene

Ninja Tune
2009

Review

Blockhead is a master of the downtempo ominous-and-yet-playful electronic instrumental music and never seems to miss a step between releases. This time around the sound seems a bit more hopeful as if the dark clouds from the past of given way to a bright and sunny day. If any of that makes sense to you and it makes you smile, well dig in because this here is yet another sample of electric goodness that the old twenty-ten buffet is serving up on a weekly basis.

My ears focused on a different instrument on nearly every track. On "It's Raining Clouds" the flirtatious flutes, "The Music Scene" the dallying drums, "Only Sequences Change" the sportive sax...you get the idea. Would I love for an MC to tear it up over some of these tracks? Absolutely. Would these tracks be any better with the help of an MC? Absolutely not. It seems disrespectful for me to listen to this instrumental Hip-Hop sounding stuff and continually ask myself what MC would shred over them. The argument that many of these super producers seem to be making to me is that the backbone of a Hip-Hop song need not be a simple repetitive yet imaginative beat. In fact, I think that the approach used in compositions of this ilk would only make Hip-Hop stronger. But still here they stand on their own.

It's Raining Clouds - Flutes! You have to love the flutes. Besides, my wife says that this song goes great with a glass of wine. And while I probably would have picked something stronger to mellow out to while I listen to this track, the sentiment she mentions is valid; Blockhead is a master at creating songs that strike something inside of you emotionally. This is just a fantastic track that stands on its own without an MC. It's a composition that requires no vocal guide to generate real tension. It must be the almost bag-pipe like keys that cause it. Then at the end it just flips entirely and turns into some brilliant drum and bass sounding stuff complete with apocalyptic-sounding distorted horns. Classic.

The Music Scene - Playful sounding drums over a very to the point sample. It's a big track that doesn't necessarily live up to the level of its predecessor but that is always interesting, just not always that great...until the indian influence (Is that a distorted sitar? Or a muted electric guitar?) kicks in towards the end to elevate the track. "We call that a joint" - indeed.

Only Sequences Change - Love the jazzy feel to this one, especially the sax. Blockhead brings some real Soul on this one. It feels like there are some great ghosts of Soul singers in the background.

Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer - Love the title. There's a noir-ish feel to this one. More of that snake charmer vibe melded with some muted blurry funk. This to me sounds like an instrumental hip-hop record - except the parts that would have been repeated to make way for the MC have been replaced with some interesting changes to help the music stand on its own. I loved the bassline that kicked in at the end of the track. If you are at all a fan of downtempo electronic music, this track is a must listen.

Attack The Door - Wow, what a great hook. Instantly you want more. You can hear the scratches on the track over a playful - in a ghost throwing books at you off the shelf type of way - melodic track.

The Prettiest Sea Slug - Another downtempo jawn. To start with though, it's a bit flat. It gets better, but it's still not enough. Interesting Spanish guitar work at the end.

The Daily Routine - hmmm, interlude? Although it really does pick up at the end by the Cotton Club inspired horns, piano keys, and weird vocal samples.

Tricky Turtle - Aw yeah, bringing out the funk. Coupled with some horns and some funky electric guitars? Lovely, in a will-you-take-me-to-funkytown sort of way. And the Chipmunks even make an appearance? I'm excited that the Funk is indeed making a real return this year (maybe it never left?).

Four Walls - Back the ominous. Autotune even? That makes it all the more ominous. It's not often you hear the autotune in an instrumental hip-hop track. Quite relaxing as far as the ominous goes. Roger Troutman on the comedown - say Roger's been sniffing some china white all week and is ready for the hangover to come. I love how Blockhead takes a vocal sample and runs it through some electric guitar filters to make the voices sound like guitars. Brilliant...oh, and then like Purple Rain Prince comes in at the end.

Pity Party - Some plauful keys over an ominous bassline...but yet it's somehow playful because of the spaghetti western-inspired whistles.

Hell Camp - Loving the electronic organ. This is a very relaxing track. It makes me think of a mash-up of something by DJ Cam and early 90's Hip-Hop beat. There's a very pressing element to the music. Some tension that builds up inside of you in a way that needs a physical release. In other words, you could equally be ok with constructing the basis for your life story to it as you could be at prepping to run a marathon. Oddly enough, I found very little to be hellish about this track.

You kids better get to bed
It's gonna be a big day tomorrow

Farewell Spaceman - Just ok. Not as great as those before it

This was actually one of the first electronic releases of this year and it's actually one of the strongest. Having to pick between this one and Four Tet's latest is a tough one. Thankfully I don't have to I can just say if you like this style of music just grab them both.

The music scene has got me down
'cause I don't want to be a clown

Blockhead need not worry, he's no clown. He's a genuine artist.

4.167 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. It's Raining Clouds (05:54) 5
2. The Music Scene (04:49) 4
3. Only Sequences Change (04:44) 5
4. Which One of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer? (04:48) 5
5. Attack the Doctor (05:46) 4
6. The Prettiest Sea Slug (04:35) 3
7. The Daily Routine (06:48) 4
8. Tricky Turtle (04:38) 4
9. Four Walls (05:42) 4
10. Pity Party (04:22) 4
11. Hell Camp (04:37) 5
12. Farewell Spaceman (06:35) 3