An intriguing, if slightly unsettling, solo LP...
'How What Time'

There’s something unsettling about the way Commodo opens ‘How What Time’ – his debut solo LP, following last year’s collaborative effort alongside fellow don’t-just-call-it-dubstep pioneers Kahn and Gantz. Something unsettling about the way the first tune, an introduction, drifts in as though rolling off the back of a preceding tune on a mixtape. Or the way the vocal sample is cut short of its perfect loop.

Its title, ‘Hej’, even has an unfamiliar look to it unless you happen to be savvy with colloquial Swedish addresses (or have been using Soundcloud long enough to remember the original Login greeting). Pretty much all of it, basically, appears intent on throwing you off balance: the clutter of drums, reverse rises that sound and feel like a rug pulled from under your feet, the knot-tight decays.

But then, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that that’s sort of the point – if for no other reason than the fact that that clipped vocal sample is emblematic of the archetypally stuffy music muso laying down the law on just what can or cannot be described as music. The point, Commodo is about to try and convince you of over the next 39 minutes, is that music should be thought of as something utterly fluid in definition.

Existing fans will recognise (and revel in) the cacophonous horn samples that have come to characterise Commodo’s past few years – see ‘How Dare You’ – but the die-hards will be pleased to hear the swinging, kitchen-sink-included approach to percussion that typified his early releases has survived too.

Despite these recognisable elements that can be traced throughout his relatively nascent career, this doesn’t feel like a debut album. Not for any negative reason though, more so on account of all the evidence of Commodo really flexing his creative muscles and trying out new things (something which, in fairness, he’s openly passionate about).

The album is stuffed with interesting instrument samples from across the globe, and it’s great to see his hip-hop and downtempo meanderings being given some space to breathe here; these are complex earworms that benefit from being cushioned in an album context, rather than overlooked on the B-side of a 12” whose lead track will see it fly off shelves regardless of what’s on the flipside.

A clutch of vocal features round the project out. Trim appears early on and the former Roll Deep member – known for his off-kilter flows and leftfield beat selections – feels an ideal fit for the record. Rocks FOE too is building a reputation for making daring collaborative choices, as well refusing to be pinned down for the beats he puts out from behind the mixing desk himself. ‘Set It Straight’ is a strong step for both Rocks and Commodo, achieving arguably what the latter’s ‘Shift’ (released in 2014, featuring JME) intended to but never quite fully accomplished – despite the slavering attention it received from fans on the dancefloor. It’s a rare feat in that the wordplay is just as clever as the beat backing it, but neither muddies, clouds or cannibalises the other. An exercise in balance that’s usually emblematic of genuine artistic chemistry, that is.

Electronic music LPs, particularly those by artists who have shown particular prowess in producing tracks that turn dancefloors over, generally face a bigger challenge in terms of validating their format. That is to say, some music just fits better on a 12” that you turn over after each track rather than playing through one after the other. The odd one will do it successfully – Skream’s debut, exclamation-pointed effort being an obvious example – and whether or not that’s been achieved here will ultimately fall to a question of subjective taste.

For our money it’s not quite there, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the album as a solid collection in its own right. Commodo’s sample-based approach and fondness for making use of a handful of characteristic synth sounds help to tie the record together nicely.

There’s plenty here for fans both old and introductory, even if it does encourage you to get a bit weird from time to time. But then, what’s good if it’s not (at least a bit) weird?

7/10

Words: Will Pritchard (@Hedmuk)

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