A polished debut that’ll leave his fans wanting more.
Al Fox 2012-03-23
Timothy McKenzie, AKA Labrinth, has already established himself as an in-demand, trend-surfing producer, aiding the ascension of many an artist including Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32, as well as on upcoming projects from Usher and Cheryl Cole. With perhaps the exception of Yasmin’s unspeakably beige Finish Line, Labrinth is clearly a man who understands the craft of the mixing desk.
So while Labrinth has a solid foundation on which to build his solo career, stepping from the comfort of the studio into the harsh glare of the spotlight is no easy transition. But Electronic Earth is not just a producer’s vanity project – this is Labrinth doggedly cementing himself as an artist. When fellow desk-maestros have released their own albums as headliners (Timbaland, Mark Ronson or Richard X, for example), they tend to be heavily laden with collaborations. Electronic Earth, by comparison, boasts just two slots for featured artists – in this instance, Emeli Sandé and Tinie Tempah.
With the weight of Simon Cowell behind him, an impressive writing and production discography, and a hefty profile, Labrinth could have called in any number of favours. Instead, he’s putting himself front-and-centre with no-one to hold his hand. His arrangements are brave, even cheeky – we’ve all heard the immense, volatile beats of Earthquake mercilessly wiped for a Gregorian chant breakdown, and the chutzpah doesn’t end there. Climb on Board sees playful piano racing against a drum‘n’bass beat, while Sundown somehow interpolates Big Yellow Taxi into its staid, brooding buzz to great effect.
As a vocalist, he may not possess a belter’s pipes, but there’s a gravelly, uniquely soulful quality that carries its own merits. Sadly, it’s all too often lost to the hammering use of Auto-Tune, which may be in keeping with the genre but is a touch too prevalent within the sphere of the album.
There’s no denying the ability to conjure up huge electronic landscapes, of which there are a few good examples here. And while Labrinth makes the right kind of noise, and provides a window into himself as an artist, at a fleeting 10 tracks Electronic Earth doesn’t exactly give away the farm. But it feels as though it’s a measured dose rather than a shortfall, as though he’s intentionally leaving fans wanting more. If Electronic Earth is anything to go by, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to satiate them for some time to come.