Available on: Ninja Tune EP

If Luke had a tape deck in that Landspeeder of his, you can imagine him cranking Moonbeam Rider on all those trips to Toshi Station. There are so many zooms, soars, and warps on this EP, it’s a wonder Slugabed is still on this planet. Which isn’t to say that his music is all about laser blasts and self-consciously “futuristic” sounds, as there is a marked maturity to this new material, specifically in the complexity of the melodies and rhythms. On previous releases, the music was steeped heavily in boom-bap beats and wild synths. While those qualities are still here, Slugabed spends a lot of care in crafting narrative stories to these tracks.

The title track starts the adventure off with a gentle harkening synth bathed in a warm glow, almost as if the titular rider is about to launch into the moonbeam from a hot Tatooine day. With the murky bass squiggles, he enters space-time and begins to move relentlessly forward through high frequency arpeggios and spacey drums. It’s a complex song that pushes the boundaries what most people wrongly refer to as “8-bit”, sounding beautiful and unique instead of simply retro. ‘Heck Flex’ continues with a more funky bass line and rhythm, while synths talk and syncopate along. The melody is coated in wonderful reverb, making for a big sound and interesting dynamics when they suddenly cut off and veer in a different direction.

While the bubbling, arpeggiated ‘My Sense of Smell Comes and Goes’ is perhaps the song most in-line with the various beats scenes of L.A., Glasgow and Russia, ‘Tomorrow Morning’ is a whole new look for Slugabed. Distilling his high-filter synths and warping them around a floating 2-step rhythm, he successfully adapts his sound into a more conventionally dancefloor-friendly tune. It’s subtle and different, but with a distinctly Slugabed feel to the sound design. That it comes right before the thoroughly fun and off-kilter closer ‘Nu Krak Swing’ only heightens its uniqueness; the aforementioned closer finding Slugabed flexing his quirky side, with synths masquerading as sax solos and huge synth pads. It’s that thirst for fun that keeps Sluagbed’s songs from devolving into exercises in computre music excess, even when he’s showing his (marginally) more serious side.

Keith Pishnery

3.5
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