Outboxx, Outboxx

[Idle Hands]

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Coming from a multicultural melting pot of Bristolian dance culture, house enthusiasts Outboxx have established themselves in short order, maturely brewing their easily recognizable sound. Equipped with rhythmic sensibility of Jacob Martin (alias Hodge) and Matthew Lambert’s keyboard skills, they’ve succeeded in forming an aesthetic of their own, combining big, warm bass with lush, synthesized melodies to create strangely familiar yet exuberantly fresh tunes. We’ve already heard them expand their style through several releases on Immerse Recordings, BRSTL, and Well Rounded Housing Project, but nowhere is their bold versatility displayed better than on the newest offering, their self-titled album on Idle Hands.

Spanning nine compositions, Outboxx largely remain in their sunset-lit territory of yearning vocal chants and echoes, but with each subsequent piece, their approach slightly changes. Opening song, “Home,” a nostalgic slow-burner, glides through dreamy pads and crackling background sequences and eventually introduces Naomi Jeremy, their long-time collaborator and apt vocalist. While the bass provides just enough bumpiness to make the ride worthwhile, Jeremy’s lyrics somehow don’t fully integrate into the template, despite her audible vocal effort. Similar mismatch happens in the soulful broken-beat piece “Lost Soul,” but this time her vocals outshine a limping, almost intentionally disjointed rhythmic flex. In the end, it’s the mournful, echoing synths that give both songs just enough cohesiveness to succeed. Listening to “All The Right Moves” and “Jaded,” it becomes obvious the Bristolians fare much better when extracting the sweet soul plasma of repetitive, disembodied vocals without definite semantic meaning. Freed from the anchor of Jeremy’s diction, a whirl of vocal snippets and uplifting melodies breathe much needed space into the album, still firmly positioned into gentle slow house tinkling. On paper, it seems like a fairly simple formula, but it’s only through their specific understanding and control of space that their melodies get poignant openings in the mix — and when they derive those motifs from classics, is when they get really anthemic results. “Sunshine Mills” effectively uses samples of New Edition’s “A Little Bit Of Love (Is All It Takes)” and turns it into a thrilling, driving piano-led, deep-house jam, sure to become one of this summer’s highlights.

The duo move away from their established style and focus on negative space in the latter portion of the album, adding dubby chords, distorted bass howls, and many textural details with slight sonic reference to their usual winning recipe. And surprisingly, it’s this last third of Outboxx when gets most exciting, with three compositions (“Thrashing Groovster,” “Withdrawal,” “My Destination”) almost completely lacking immediate hooks. This emptiness is no detriment, though. Through obvious and pervasive touches of delay and reverb, it allows the percussion to draw a distinctive, clattering signature in a crackling but sensuous environment. This move makes perfect sense since dub pervades everything on the album, and this final spacing-out essentially balances a well considered collection of quality tracks. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish, revealing many cultural and sonic streams intersecting and flowing together. None of its pieces tries to be the newest or most memorable track on the block, and that’s why Outboxx is more than just the sum of its parts. With all its victories and slips, it is music that’s vital to understanding our present moment.


Little White Earbuds May Charts 2013 | Little White Earbuds  on May 31, 2013 at 12:02 AM

[…] Stand Still [Mule Musiq] (buy) 08. Djrum, “Honey” [2nd Drop Records] (buy) 09. Outboxx, “Sunshine Mills” [Idle Hands] (buy) 10. Juju & Jordash, “A Stab In The Dark” [Ostgut Ton] […]

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