Review: Slugabed – Any Attempt To Control The Environment Or The Self By Means That Are Either Untested Or Untestable, Such As Charms Or Spells
Pinch me. Has it been a decade since Slugabed started releasing music? At the time these releases were a breath of fresh air from safe productions adding an element of fun and pomp to his productions. His debut album, 2012’s ‘Time Team’, was gorgeous yet understated. The 2017 follow up ‘Inherit the Earth’ showed a maturity that was missing on those early releases, but it was unmistakably Slugabed. Woozy synths, killer bassline and a sense of humour permeated the album. This was followed up with 2017’s ‘Slugs Secret Beat Tape’, an album that felt like a collection of cut-up demos and rough sketches. 2018’s ‘Pandemonium’ was a cohesive and immediate six track EP. In between all this he founded and ran the Activia Benz label, releasing forward thinking music from the brightest producers around the world. Now he’s released his third studio album, the protracted titled ‘Any Attempt to Control the Environment or the Self by Means That Are either Untested or Untestable, Such As Charms or Spells’.
From the opening salvo, you realise this is the same Slugabed you’ve always known, but there is something different too. He’s decided to be more open and honest with us. The tracks feel slightly unfinished, or at least, a living work in progress. At times you feel like the idea is more important to Slugabed than the finished article and this is incredibly rewarding. It’s like he is peeling away a layer of the creative process and we can see how is mid works. The standout track is ‘Y U Stuck There’, which features Activia Benz alumni Mr. Yote. As usual Yote is off in Yoteland and even after half a dozen listens, I’m still unsure what he’s going on about, but whatever it is, is brilliant! His flows work perfectly with the music. ‘Clanggg’ is the most cohesive and polished, and reminds us of Slugabed of old. Its inclusion is as if to remind us why we’re here in the first place.
‘Any Attempt…’ has more in common with ‘Slugs Secret Beat Tape’ than with the pristine ‘Time Team or ‘Inherit the Earth’ and works better for it. Instead playing it safe by following his woozy, bass heavy blueprint, he’s decided to scrap that for something more ad-hoc and unpredictable. From the opening notes you have no idea where it will go, or how the song will end. And this is also the problem with ‘Any Attempt…’ While jumping around musically the samples keep the listener on their toes. Squeaky jazz horns on ‘Many Blessing, Fantastic Sky’ get chopped up and supplanted over stuttering breakbeats, while the metal riffs on ‘Storm the Palace’ don’t feel out of place jostling with glitchy synths. It’s this eclectic musicality that is the most rewarding part of the album. It feels that Slugabed has raided his psyche for all his favourite riffs and motifs, sampled them created delirious soundscapes that skew and mutate before us. Saying this there is something for keeping it more cohesive and safe. When has Slugabed really ever been for the safe and easy road?
Overall ‘Any Attempt…’ is a brave and intoxicating album that makes up for its flaws with giddy abandon and delivers on Slugabed’s early promise. Throughout ‘Any Attempt…’ feels like his most personal album to date. It’s an album that will have its detractors, but its champions will defend it to the hilt. It shows an artist willing to try something different, regardless of the results. It looks like Slugabed has finally found his place in music, and given the quality of this and Activia Benz’ recent output, let’s hope he stays there for a while.