A debut with mainstream potential from the young Bristol dubstep/grime producer.
Melissa Bradshaw 2011-11-01
In 2007 Joker, a young producer from Bristol, burst onto the grime and dubstep scenes with an utterly idiosyncratic take on UK underground music. With their unforgettable hooks and vast, rambunctious synth lines, his tracks bridged the epic and the comic, the menacing and the ridiculous. Joker was an instant star, and since then he’s come a long way.
While his forays into boogie have been favoured by the likes of Hyperdub boss Kode9 (see/hear Digidesign), he’s never rested upon any laurels, fusing juddering basslines with bumping hip hop on hits like Tron (which is on this debut album). Though Joker has repudiated being a dubstep producer exclusively, this set is characterised by the kinds of oscillating, laser-like synths and crashing snares that comprise elements of mainstream dubstep. As is the ever-present danger with new directions in an artist’s development – especially when said artist appeals to thoughtful chin-strokers and moshing ravers alike – these tangents might alienate some of Joker’s more discerning-cum-snootier followers.
But it shouldn’t, because this is a charmingly youthful and exuberant album, featuring a fine selection of vocalists. Despite their bombast, the slightly rock’n’roll rackets of lyrics-led tracks Slaughter House (featuring Silas from Turboweekend) and The Vision (featuring Jessie Ware) are tempered by intriguing nonsense and twinkling subtleties respectively; later, through a trip via a kaleidoscopic Milky Way and the delirium of RnB-tinged number On My Mind, Joker’s big imagination ascends.
Elsewhere, Electric Sea, with vocals from Jay Wilcox, has instant airy-pop potential, while the shadowy bassline of Back in the Days is a grimier winner. Fresh and unabashed, Lost finds vocalist Buggsy’s diatribe against the causes of alienated youth – "Nobody thinks about when the poor lady gives birth / Everybody thinks that the youth got murked, and it hurts" – underscored by a glorious slew of interlocking beats; possessing the flavour of Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem), it really should be a radio hit. And the album wraps itself up in a swaggering street soul that leaves you anticipating a great future for this young Bristolian, and the friends who will no doubt be with him.