Buy Now! Blockhead – The Music Scene
Blockhead is perhaps most well known for his fantastic hip-hop production credits for various Def Jux artists. However, he’s also got a number of solo albums to his name as well. On his latest full-length installment for the ever-progressive Ninja Tune label, The Music Scene, Blockhead once again veers slightly away from the traditional underground hip-hop sound, stepping into the world of trip-hop and downtempo.
Similar to his Ninja Tune debut, Music By Cavelight, Blockhead layers thick sounds on top of one another, creating a mystifying, dense, sonic atmosphere. From the opening track, “It’s Raining Clouds”, it is evident that he is going for a somewhat cinematic approach to these instrumentals, as if the whole album could be one cohesive movie. “It’s Raining Clouds” begins with a classic downtempo ambience, amplified by pounding drums. It gradually builds into a steady drum and bass type affair, suitable for a trance-like rave.
It’s obvious that Blockhead is paying close attention to the details here, as he steadily constructs each track. Odd, unsettling sounds jut in at will, at times coming close to disrupting the pure flow of the song – but this is all calculated, of course. The Music Scene boasts numerous dark, ominous moments, tempered by a few lighter ones, such as the fun and quirky vocal sample on “Only Sequences Change”. Blockhead wisely centers the album on its longest track, “The Daily Routine”, a song that seems to touch on the nerves of human emotions. It’s an overtly trippy, at times distorted piece of work with an awfully haunting aftertaste. Like many of the other tracks here, “The Daily Routine” follows the formula of downtempo/trip-hop turned drum and bass.
Besides its standout tracks, The Music Scene is enhanced very well by its subtleties. Perhaps not evident on first listens, there are instruments layered deep within each track that eventually reveal themselves and their sheer importance to the track. Steady beeps and clicks mesh with the percussion on many tracks, adding to the psychedelic feel brought about by the guitars and squeaky strings. “Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer” is an excellent example of Blockhead’s ability to add texture to a track and allow the sounds to play off each other and interact.
If the album has one downfall, it lies in the fact that many of the songs sound a bit too similar to the preceding song. Each track certainly does retain a certain amount of individuality, but it’s almost as if Blockhead got so caught up in each and every detail, that he forgot to think outside the box. There is not one particular track here that makes me believe that this album is pushing any boundaries. Nonetheless, Blockhead knows what he does well, and he lays it all out on The Music Scene, a fine album with definite replay value.