Scuba, Hardbody

[Hotflush Recordings]

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What began with “Feel It,” peaked with “Loss,” and went overboard with “Adrenalin” has been no temporary blip in Paul Rose’s discography; and while this year’s Personality LP was overall a positive addition, it also saw this new phase of his sound begin to suffer from diminishing returns. The shock of Scuba, the gruff ex-metalhead staring at you from grainy press photos, making unabashedly big-room, prog-tinged house has worn off, and with it comes the realization that there may not be much left to explore in his poppy brand of dance music. But then, Rose has been rather single minded in his aesthetic approach over the last two years, and his most recent missive, single-sided Talk Torque, continued his trajectory out of Panorama Bar and into the Ministry of Sound. “Hardbody,” which one might guess is a reference to his gym routine, is much better, pulling things back inside from the festival grounds and into the club.

Eschewing some of the more overproduced, blindingly sunny aspects of Personality‘s tracks and “Talk Torque”, “Hardbody” reemploys the elements that made “Loss” such a masterstroke: an elastic, kinetic bass line, dueling vocal snippets, and the cheeky flourishes that imbue Scuba’s music with personality. An airy breakdown that arrives out of nowhere threatens to derail the momentum but is luckily short lived, and subsequently “Hardbody” dials back the trancey components to more manageable levels. Even though the back half sags a bit, the thrills of the first few minutes of the track are undeniable, making it the most essential transmission from Scuba this year, and perhaps for Hotflush as well. Indeed, Hotflush have had a complicated year, completing their about-face from gloomy dubstep/techno to straightforward techno, electro, and what’s essentially prog house. 2012 has seen them release some excellent records (Sigha, NeferTT), some regrettable ones (Shelter Point), and plenty in between. Yet the label’s strategy of putting out loads and seeing what sticks has harmed their “buy on sight” status, and Scuba’s own approach of repeatedly mining the same sounds and style hasn’t necessarily fared much better. When he hits the sweet spot, however, it hits big. I don’t think they come much bigger than “Hardbody.”

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