- Do you still get docked points for being derivative when you better the source material? London's Pariah made his name on a soul-fueled 12-inch for legendary techno label R&S, two tracks that were impressively well-produced but didn't exactly break the mold. His R&S follow-up is something much bigger, a double EP that subsumes the diverse world of UK bass music into one glossy package but does little to expand or build on its borrowed foundations.
Pariah is nothing more than a recycler and polisher of dubstep trends, a problem highlighted by opening track "The Slump," which literally sounds like it was built from sounds taken from other producers. Those metallic rimshots are from Mount Kimbie's "Vertical," and stabbing bass and trickling percussion nicked from any number of Ramadanman productions. By the same token, "Crossed Out," subsists on the same euphorically smooth ascension and perfectly-polished vocal samples as so many other "Hyph Mngo"-soundalikes. It's far from daringly original, but Pariah's pads are so liquid smooth, the vocals so perfectly positioned, the drums just the right amount of springy, it's impossible not to get pulled into his enveloping and immersive soundscapes.
Occasionally Pariah stumbles onto something unique, as with "Railroad," the EP's shortest but most vibrant track. Starting off as a typical Burial invocation, 8-bit clouds roll in and overwhelm the track in liquid computer funk. The brewing storm threatens ominous destruction, manifesting itself in brief eruptions of junglist breaks as every element sloshes and careens in what feels like suspended chaos. But it's a contained chaos held firmly between Pariah's surprisingly expert hands, and his measured control of every sound and melodic motif means that the result is emotionally overwhelming rather than claustrophobic. Similarly, the oddball "C-Beams" focuses on a lurching piano that attempts to maintain momentum wading through an unpredictable beat, with seemingly little regard for conventional rhythm.
A universalist in a scene obsessed with highly-specific individuality, Pariah's production values are higher than most, and his focus on emotion and expression means that his considerable potential extends far beyond the dubstep community. To someone who doesn't keep up with every record to trickle out of every prominent dubstep imprint, these may even sound like revelatory tracks. Judging from the rainy atmosphere of "Safehouses," Pariah is just as concerned with reaching beyond the realm of dubstep. The near-ambient track is a bold move on a release format usually reserved for dance floor-oriented tracks, and while it's not particularly groundbreaking, its suffocated melodies are deeply affecting.
And therein lies Pariah's true talent: The key to enjoying Safehouses is turning your thoughts off and just enjoying the impeccably-produced music. That's not to imply that this is dumb music (it's not), but such beautifully evocative sounds deserve undivided attention, no matter their context. In forcing us to do that, maybe Pariah has already achieved some ultimate, transcendent success. Or maybe not. At any rate, he's on to something.
A1 The Slump
B1 Crossed Out