There is a wealth of producers in this country who are working at the trendy intersection between downtempo electronica, trip-hop and airy hip-hop beats. Say what you will of the vast array of genres that exist, and whether calling something a distinct genre is an exercise in pretentious futility, but it is helpful in tagging different strands of music. SLABOFMISUSE clearly enjoys taking the piss with what he chooses to call his music: from ‘hiphopfunkglitch’ to ‘glitch ambient’, it makes the journey through his Soundcloud page a rewarding and slightly humourous trip. What the neologisms do help explain are the vast array of influences and genres that permeate his brand of electronic music. These can be difficult to pinpoint but over the course of his new EP We Float Reality, it seems clear that he was not the type of kid who grew up exclusively on 5fm chart countdowns.
The EP opens up with the moody title track that is all foghorns and rattling percussion. It works as the entry point into the murky subterranean world that SLABOFMISUSE creates. It is the sound of life under the city streets beneath the din of the party above it. The beats sound distant yet reverberate around the track and the vocal sample is clipped and dropped instinctively in and around the song. It represents SLABOFMISUSE working with laser focus; the track is tight and creates subtle moments of drama. It’s an impressive opening gambit and shows deft skill. This year saw the release of Forest Swords’ debut album Engraving and SLABOFMISUSE’s work is in a similar vein. There’s a focus on textures and moods but there is no compromise in rhythm and beat and the song gradually disappears as ominously as it started.
The EP then moves on to the songs ‘Control Flat’ and ‘Limitless’. They are both more subdued in nature and they seem like good ideas not necessarily stretched out into good songs. ‘Control Flat’ is pulsing and industrial and features synths that could have come straight out of a Robocop movie. Despite this, it lacks real punch or vision. As a take on mechanical sounding and industrial hip-hop it could have been pushed out and hit with more intensity. It feels tentative and better suited to filling in the background of a soundtrack rather than a full track on an album. There is a slight return to form in ‘Limitless’, the EP’s longest track, where SLABOFMISUSE plays with more stretched-out and sparse production. It works as a tour of the underground world SLABOFMISUSE creates and over its course it quietly threatens to erupt without ever quite doing so. It’s well-crafted work but draws out the album unnecessarily where it should have been more engaging.
SLABOFMISUSE hits the ground running again with ‘Six Untitled Monsters’ where he curates his different styles to good effect. There are hints of dub in the bass that’s turned down to guttural lows, and some escapism in the subtle plucking of strings. It’s an elegant fusion that makes you want to believe in the concept of ‘hiphopfunkglitch’ and SLABOFMISUSE’s weird and wonderful world. The EP is closed out with the most upbeat track on the album, the delightful ‘Walking Away’ that gently sways on the highs of an alto-saxophone that croons and crests all over the track. Interspersed with a nifty pitch-shifted sample, it is a welcome return to the light – of sorts.
The EP is an impressive if still unpolished set of tracks from a producer with many original and creative ideas in his arsenal. There are many elements to enjoy here, from the woozy funky nods to jazz and the beat driven hip-hop rhythms. It’s another fascinating collection of songs from another fascinating producer, but it poses a further question: why are the worlds of local hip-hop and this – as yet nameless scene – not colliding more often? Clams Casino, the US producer, proved that his idiosyncratic beats could make rappers like Mac Miller, A$AP Rocky and Lil B shine yet still have enough force to stand alone as immersive songs themselves. It may just give that added impetus and edge to their work, something that would only make a good artist like SLABOFMISUSE even better.