- Paul Rose spent the last few years going as big as he possibly could. It worked: Scuba became one of techno's biggest names, and a regular in Ibiza. But amidst the game of chicken he seemed to be playing with his audience at one point—with shamelessly big-room tracks like "Hardbody" and "The Hope"—his music plateaued into generically crowd-pleasing club music. By 2014, his boundary-breaking Sub:stance night at Berghain had ended and his DJ sets had lost some of their character. Last year, as he released the Phenix EPs, Rose fell ill and was forced to cancel his summer gigs, including the season in Ibiza. Some months later, he bounced back with what may be the darkest record of his career: Claustrophobia.
Claustrophobia returns to the echoey hallways and booming drums of Triangulation, the apex of Rose's dubstep era. The simple devices he's made his own over the years—clanging delay, stadium-sized reverb and bottomless breakdowns—are here in full force, and the onus this time is on the heady and the hypnotic. And though he's a different artist in 2015 than he was in the distant past, the industrial rattle on opener "Levitation" and the piston-fired drums of "Why You Feel So Low" will feel instantly familiar to any Scuba fan.
"Drift" is up there with Rose's best work—a welcome diversion full of lavish synths that billow over the framework of colliding steel beneath them. "All I Think About Is Death" is as maudlin as its title, with angelic vocals, pregnant pauses and crystal-clear sound effects that have a huge and present quality, like we're listening in IMAX. All three highlight Rose's melodic side but deliver it with the poker face of the pre-"Adrenalin" days.
The rest of Claustrophobia is straight-ahead techno—the tracky kind Rose used to save for his SCB alias. The approach has its flaws, and there are a few songs that he could have made in his sleep ("PCP" and "Television"). But he certainly hasn't lost his sense of drama: there's always a breakdown around the corner or a rhythmic shift to keep you on your toes.
In the past, Rose has followed his muse through dubstep into techno and beyond, even when it took him into potentially dicey territory. Here, instead of trying something new, he focuses on what he's good at, which makes Claustrophobia a lateral move rather than a step forward. It seems Rose is trying to recapture the brilliance of his peak-period work. In Claustrophobia's best moments, he does.
02. Why You Feel So Low
06. All I Think About Is Death
07. Needle Phobia
08. Family Entertainment
09. Black On Black