Dan le Sac Space Between the Words Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Producer’s debut doesn’t miss partner-in-crime poet Pip’s lyrical presence one bit.

Lou Thomas 2012

Even those with little knowledge of his excellent work with Essex MC Scroobius Pip may get an idea of Dan le Sac’s dexterity from this album’s title. It’s both a self-deprecating and accurate depiction of where and how many producers exist.

Born Daniel Stephens, le Sac has always been an astute and often original craftsman. He’s varied his output with Pip, too, laying down productions taking in lad-house, alt-rap and nightmarish soundscape characteristics.

This debut solo album’s opener, Long Night of Life, has the tone of a lost UNKLE track, with folker Merz providing a resolute vocal that’s half-Springsteen, half-Yorke. Unexpected punch midway through pushes the song’s momentum on winningly, tinkling piano riffs joined by swift, windswept synths.

Conversely, Play Along has an uncommon carnival-edged bounce more akin to a track from Nightmares on Wax’s thought so… album, albeit with a harder electronic edge. Judging by her auspicious, caramel vocal on the track, up-and-coming singer Sarah Williams White will soon be familiar to a wider audience.

For a further change of tack, anti-folk trooper Emmy the Great proffers a tantalising vocal that recalls Portishead’s doom-chanteuse Beth Gibbons on the shivery, tormented Memorial. “Love is on its knees, bury it at sea,” she sings, as, somewhere, a wolf cowers. It’s spooky in the best possible sense.

Fiercer numbers shoot the album in different directions, but everything works. Regular tour support B. Dolan is on board for the jump-up party electro of Good Time Gang War, while poet and le Sac pal Joshua Idehen spits witty lines over Tuning.

If that wasn’t enough, Break of Dawn is a mournful cover of Rhythm on the Loose’s old-school house anthem (itself modelled on First Choice’s disco classic Let Know Man Put Asunder), while the album ends with a poignant and percussively sensational version of Arab Strap’s Cherubs.

To his immense credit le Sac has unleashed a wealth of first-rate ideas in the studio. He’s utilised his guest vocalists to such a remarkably varied and interesting extent that Pip’s superlative way with a lyric is barely missed.

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