Rennie Pilgrem Pilgremage Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

The baldest man in British breakbeat turns in an album of two halves. Bass-fuelled mad...

Jack Smith 2004

Commander of the mighty TCR label, respected rave veteran and indisputably the baldest man in British breakbeat, Rennie Pilgrem has paid more than his fair share of dues in the world of dance music.

After helping pioneer the 'nu skool' breaks sound, and unleashing classics like 'A Place Called Acid' and 'Black Widow' he made a pretty little splash back in 2000 with his LP Selected Werkz.

We've all been waiting for a more fulfilling artistic statement and finally, here it is. Not much can really prepare the hardened Rennie fan for the first few tracks of Pilgremage. Opener "Attention" can only be described as a big fat juicy surprise - a bitches brew of baggy drums, jazzy double bass and fluid horn work that reeks of live atmosphere and slinks on down like a sax machine.

This sounds out of character for a producer who has always edged towards precision beats and bellicose bass and, frankly, it is. Yet it also reminds us that, for all of his prowess in the digital realm, Rennie has always been a competent live musician, boasting a horn-playing papa and a penchant for sax, trumpet as well as bass guitar himself.

"Defender", the second cut on the LP, comes in at a skewed angle too, this time mixing quivering violins, trademark heavy beats and a beckoning guitar riff to alluring effect. Then, "Sanctified", all dubwise and skankin' at the core and ostentatiously decorated with saccharine strings, dramatic guitar squalls and crunching machinery.

Up to this point, Rennie is on fire - unstoppably inventive and capable of pulling just about anything from his newly burlesque bag of circus beats. But then the bass-fuelled mad professor disappears and is replaced by the formulaic studio veteran.

Not that the tunes after "Gladiator" (track four) are bad; just lacking the same joie de vivre and apparent spontaneity of their predecessors. "Celeb" is a whamming, Basement Jaxx-style mash up that features MC Chickaboo taking the standard pot-shots at the rich and famous; it has heart but unforgivably it fails to capitalise on the tension built up on the intro.

Similarly, "Fuego 2" (with old pal Uberzone) is good, but not as great as it could - and should - be; and let's not even get started on the mawkish Sarah Whittaker-Gibey track, "Coming Up For Air".

The end of the LP sees an upturn, most notably with the psychedlic rush of "Trevor Pistol", the loose, booty-shaking funk of 'Atlantis' and the elegant and mellifluous "Acid Part 3" - a bonus track scheduled to appear on the soundtrack of forthcoming Britflick "The Football Factory".

By the time the LP grinds to a halt, we are left convinced of Rennie's capabilities in the studio but it's hard not to get the impression that this is one Pilgremage that hasn't quite made it all the way to the scheduled destination.

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