- For someone with a seemingly warm and genial personality, the music of Rinse FM's Grimey Breakfast Show host is jarringly dark, even nasty. The man known as Scratcha, DVA, Leon Smart or any combination of the three, submerges the misty-eyed bliss of UK funky in bubbling pits of tar. The results are apocalyptic (his recent "New World Order" is the sound of the world ending), or severely reduced like the acid-eaten skeleton of his Hyperdub debut "Natty."
Smart's second release for Kode9's enigmatic label is an update on his debut, pasting colourful streamers and tacky cutouts onto "Natty." The gaudy decor does wonders for the newly-christened "Just Vybe," transforming its bottomless void into a decisive stomp. The onus is clearly on the powerful vocal from Eglo Records' London-via-Sweden star Fatima, whose melodies find previously invisible corners and crevices to interrogate; suddenly, "Natty" is a spacious jam with heated synth veins that swell and glow like planetarium light shows. Her brilliant performance serves to shatter conceptions of what Hyperdub releases are supposed to sound like, the celebratory implosions resulting in something like the rainbow confetti pictured on the record's label. The track's second half is more unstable, as the raw nerves of "Natty" are exposed only to melt away and pool in a goopy mess of filters on the floor. This isn't your average UK funky banger.
Exhausting all his vitamin D with "Just Vybe," Smart returns to the severe industrial aesthetic of his most recent work with "Step 2 Funk," which sounds like "Natty" smoothed out over an ironing board—namely, rather flat. Workmanlike with little flair, it's a useful tool, but its airless composition is simply suffocating, without the gasping-for-air thrill of other Hyperdub funky flirtations. That of course has its merits as well, but after the hysteria of "Just Vybe," it falls short of the diamond standard.
A Just Vybe feat. Fatima
B Step 2 Funk