- The Ninja Tune XX compilation successfully avoided what RA's Christine Kakaire calls "dewy-eyed retrospectives," choosing instead to celebrate the label's first 20 years with collaborations, remixes and new material. While Kakaire's imagination was sparked by spin-the-bottle hook-ups between established acts, relative newcomers to the imprint provided the best glimpse of its future. Brightest of its great white hopes are Emika and Eskmo, each of whom have dragged dubstep backwards through Ninja's sound collage aesthetic to arrive at their own voices: hers cold, dark and minimal; his warm, vibrant and lush.
San Francisco-based Eskmo's debut album opens with XX standout "Cloudlight," which frames everything that follows. Shuffling beats thud and crackle over deep purring bass, lit up by saucer-eyed synths and dreamy vocals incanting "floating and floating and floating in light." An artist who has spent a decade developing a "genre-less" approach (dubstep is a darts-throw approximation), Brendan Angelides' production as Eskmo can be pinned down somewhere between the intense assemblage of labelmate and collaborator Amon Tobin and J Dilla's slow funk.
Having refined his sound through releases on Planet Mu and Warp, Eskmo has chosen to mark out his artist album with extensive use of his own vocals. This sets him apart from the pack of faceless producers, but the continual drone of his Moby-esque mumbles can grate, especially with lyrics that do little more than emphasise what each track and its title already communicate: "Color Dropping," "The Melody". As such, the album's highlights are those that use Angelides' voice sparingly (the short, sweet head-trip "You Go, I See That") or not at all ("Siblings," with its frozen Eastern electronics), where the expressive music is allowed to speak for itself.
Having found his voice, both literally and as a producer, Angelides needs to ensure his longevity by finding something to say—and someone else to say it for him. While his female flipside Emika seems to have no end of angst to tap into, the only Eskmo track to reach beyond stargazer poetry is "Lands and Bones," a Warp-issued collaboration with singer-songwriter Swan Palermo. Visionary producers like Jackson and his Computer Band and, indeed, Amon Tobin have found room for other (bits of) voices in their sonic universes; Eskmo should learn to do the same.
02. We Got More
03. Color Dropping
04. The Melody
05. You Go, I See That
06. We Have Invisible Friends (Washed Mix)
07. Become Matter Soon, For You
08. Moving Glowstream
12. Gold & Stone
13. My Gears Are Starting To Tremble