Dubstep’s trajectory from urban club secret to suburban-sprawl phenom provides plenty of easy targets. Hating on little-bro Skrillix or the all out douche-step of Borgore is hating too late. In another 10 years, very few listeners will be left who will care enough to draw the distinction. The bright side is that’s it’s freed up the original movers from the obligation to move the form forward. Were it still a cool thing, they’d would still be debating what BPM exceeds the rules.
For an artist like Scuba, abandoning the genre was the probably the best thing that could of happened. Paul Rose has had the sort of career that naturally avoids the leading edge. Never showy, he’s still got a way of getting to the heart of a trend. An early track like “Subaqueous” could serve as the textbook example of dubstep: wubba wubba over a Def Jam beat, spry and lonely despite the lurching sounds. His previous full-length, Triangulation, incorporated the not-yet-cliches of dubstep with an appreciation of everything else happening in electronic music. “Heavy Machinery” twisted 10-ton beats to mimic the teary synthesizers of LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great.”
Personality doesn’t try to continue that evolution. Rose works much closer to the house sounds of his recent Hotflush peers. Since he runs the label, this direction is hardly surprising. It also follows the history of his productions refining trends rather then breaking them. Yet, a track like “The Hope” doesn’t want for originality, accomplishing the ambitious task of being both a retro house number and a gangster boast. The basic plan is disco and soul samples, shot though with stings and vocals digitally lowered to a baritone. His narration starts out as bragging but ends up repeating the phrase “got the hope” like he doesn’t really believe the braggadocio. No doubt who’s in control, though.
There’s plenty of other XL beats, all kept four-on-the-floor. “NE1BUTU” reaches all the way back to proto-rave like Bomb the Bass’s “Beat Dis,” mixing friendly Latin phrases with the disconnected samples slipping past. It’s the sound of Rose venturing far from his formerly cool persona, when he used to coax along the scene from the middle.
The simple wallops that make up most of Personality suit him surprisingly well. When he does return to two-step beats, he keeps them calm, lest anyone expect a drop or proggy interjection. They may sound a bit old, but they’re spry and lonesome: exactly what’s gone missing from others trying to play that game.
By Ben Donnelly