If you’ve ever been moved by a J-Rocc mix, if you’ve ever been amazed by a sample expert like Madlib, The Clonious or Kira Neris, if you just like lots of different types of music, The Music Scene is the album of the year.
Tony Simon (aka Blockhead) is the absolute opposite of a blockhead (in the traditional sense). In a hip-hop beats from the block sense, he’s a ‘head’; but with this, his third (and increasingly acknowledged) best album for Ninja Tune, it’s so much more than hip-hop, instrumental or beats.
Somewhere in these 12 tracks, he pays ‘tribute’ to almost every single genre of music from hip-hop to rock to folk to Afrobeat to jazz to funk to boogie to world to gospel to folk to soundtrack to cinematic (and on and on). Now that could sound like a recipe for disaster, a soup with so many flavours it’s repulsive but The Music Scene somehow avoids the pitfalls.
That said, I wouldn’t say this was an album of 12 separate tracks. It’s a great listen as one long mixtape. For those familiar with previous Blockhead albums, what has happened to up his game? Apparently it’s the purchase of Ableton software as instead of his normal modus operandi of working from one beat and building off it, he has begun with multiple beats and creating a matrix of intricate sound structures.
As he says himself, “I made each song a little more of a musical journey than anything I have ever done before.” It’s fair to say this is true of the album of the whole but by the time he gets to the closing track ‘Farewell Spaceman’ he’s more than cracked it; even after what I said about a ‘whole’ album, this is my favourite track of the set (somewhere between DJ Shadow and ELO).
And it certainly isn’t the only one to impress. The opener starts modal, slips in some 60s organ and ends up drum and bass. And for the dark side, ‘The Daily Routine’ is based on the recordings of drug addicts arguing with some serious strings and choir that keep the more sombre to say the least. But it’s not all gloom, ‘Tricky Turle’ is the Afro-R&B bass heavy funker and one for the party season.
Tony certainly has excelled himself with ideas and concepts a plenty and if doesn’t start a Christmas run on Ableton, I’ll be most surprised. The cover puts this ‘re-birth’ idea into graphical form and although ‘The Prettiest Sea Slug’ must be close to the silliest song title of the year, he even beats that with ‘Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer’ -nothing to do with Tiger Wood’s recent indiscretions I hope?
Reviewed: Blockhead – The Music Scene (Ninja Tunes) Cat. No. ZENCD149 Release date: 18th January 2010 (Out digitally 7th December 2009)
1. It’s Raining Clouds (5:54)
2. The Music Scene (4:49)
3. Only Sequences Change (4:44)
4. Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer (4:48)
5. Attack The Doctor (5:56)
6. The Prettiest Sea Slug (4:35)
7. The Daily Routine (6:48)
8. Tricky Turtle (4:38)
9. Four Walls (5:43)
10. Pity Party (4:23)
11. Hell Camp (4:39)
12. Farewell Spaceman (6:35)
“Beautiful melancholic instrumental hip hop” Observer Music Monthly
“Startling stuff. Grabs you by the heart.” Rock Sound
“Consistently brilliant.” Clash