Available on: Hotflush LP
Scuba. The former dubstep producer, and label boss of the increasingly monolithic Hotflush Recordings, can’t seem to catch a break. If you’re one of the 13,000 people that follow him on Twitter, then you’ll have noticed that not only does he have a habit of bringing it upon himself – supporting Arsenal doesn’t help, for a start – but he’s started to relish it. And from its cover art to its sample material, Personality, his third album, seems like the musical personification of that “fuck you” attitude.
For those who’ve followed Scuba’s music from the start, Personality shouldn’t come as a massive surprise. Last year’s singles ‘The Loss’ and ‘Adrenalin’ (the former under his SCB alias) were big tracks designed for big rooms, and a far cry from the eyes down greyscale that coated past albums A Mutual Antipathy and Triangulation. Even on Triangulation, ‘So You Think You’re Special’, a vocal track that became a centrepiece of Scuba’s live shows in the following months, alluded to a more pop-friendly sensibility creeping through in his music. That album’s sleeve may have featured the most cliché of all techno clichés, a black-and-white tunnel, but it was a tunnel that led upwards, and it seems there was light at the end after all.
Speaking of clichés, a large part of how well you get on with Personality is going to depend on your capacity for them. The sleeve art could be from the back cover of a Hed Kandi CD, and the spoken word intro that opens the album seems tailor-made to troll those who’d rather Scuba kept things greyscale. Lead single ‘The Hope’, with lyrics like “got the camera, got the zinc / teenage girls, stop to think” could be the soundtrack to rugby boys spiking first year students at a Liquid Envy nightclub. But if you can get past some of Personality’s more off-putting moments – of which ‘The Hope’ is by some distance the worst – there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found. By the time Scuba drops the “never seen you break it down like this!” sample on the gloriously sun-kissed ‘NE1BUTU’, you might even find yourself rooting for him.
Because more than Personality containing good songs – which, obviously, it does – what really makes it work as an album is its sense of honesty. Rustie’s 2011 album Glass Swords was close-to-unanimously praised for its appropriation of Daft Punk, prog rock and video games, and so it seems unfair that Scuba, an artist who’s often talked up Orbital as his musical heroes, should take flak for making an album that’s just as honest to his influences. Personality’s not a start-to-finish winner like Glass Swords was, but it’s refreshing and gratifying to hear Scuba step out from the shadow of the Berghain and dreary discussions of the “dubstep-techno crossover”, and start to release some music that sounds like it was fun to make.