As the bonds of dubstep, techno, trip-hop, and minimal sausages of all stripes continue to coalesce, a handful of artists are juggling all of them at once. One is Paul Rose, a.k.a. Scuba. Though he’s recorded music in one form or another since the early aughts, the momentum behind both his own name and the Hotflush Records clan at large has really only caught fire in the last year (Joy Orbison’s nearly ubiquitous “Hyph Mngo” and Mount Kimbie’s more subtly stunning “Maybes” have both received significant attention), so 2008’s A Mutual Antipathy is only getting attention now as a way of framing what we have here on Triangulation. Both deserve substantial headphone listens to be fully appreciated, but Triangulation is slightly tighter all around.
There’s a good reason at the root of this intensity of sound: Rose has been DJing on a monthly basis at the now-famous Berghain nightclub in Berlin. The influence of the Millennium City is obvious in songs like the stalactite sonics of “Minerals” and the coldly mechanical “Heavy Machinery.” Providing quiet bubbles in some songs and ethereal guidance in others, synthesizers don’t necessarily compete with the beat, but rather lend a kind of levity to percussion that can be creative but distractingly dominant. Insistent hi-hats and metallic clatter make this more propulsive than A Mutual Antipathy, and less playful as a direct result.
Like any clever producer, Rose ensures there are exceptions. The seaside field recording that opens up “You Got Me” slips into a pogo-like beat that sprawls open with a deep synth line and echoing horns. Arpeggiating synths take over midway and transform it into a clicking Berghain line that brings back the melody for the finish. There is also relief in songs like “Before” and “So You Think You’re Special,” which utilize female vocals for a marginalized human element. Perfectly placed in the tracklisting, these very individual takes on trip-hop and drum n’ bass are breaks from the relentlessness of Rose’s minimal approach, but no less carefully rendered. Between sonar synths and waves of white noise, he’s an artist at the top of his game making music that suits his name to the letter.
It was suggested on Resident Advisor last year that “Klinik” (from the Hundreds and Thousands EP) was “arriving at peak time to destroy Berghain, and, along with it, every complacent rendition of recent techno.” In hindsight, this now seems only partly true: “Klinik” was perhaps a departure rather than an arrival. Triangulation has arrived to destroy every complacent rendition of recent techno, that much is for certain, but if Rose is lobbing the strongest two-step grenades and half-tempo ambient tracks at Berghain, he’s doing it by stealing their hyper-efficient weaponry, slimming down his own songs to skeletons in an ongoing personal evolution that has taken him from dubstep anonymity to the top of electronic music’s underground pile. This may be your first time reading about Scuba if you’re from the States, but if Triangulation is anything to go by, it will not be your last.