Writing about electronic music can be a daunting task, especially if you’re talking about someone like Scuba. As one of the primary producers responsible for dubstep’s current mutations, getting any specific handle on his persona is something he’s categorically tried to avoid. When left to his devices on a DJ-Kicks comp, we’re offered a broad platter of mid-tempo tones; techno, downtempo, dubstep, and even a few flashes of house, all bumping into each other and sounding strangely right at place.
It might be kitschy if he wasn’t careful with his source material, but Scuba is a very dedicated student. He’s able to draw together all of his elements into a damp, linear thumping. In that sense he’s a bit of a purest, building a drum-heavy, hypnotic club-set that sounds completely content in its metallic pulse. There’s little about it that blows minds, but Scuba really isn’t in the business of blowing minds – he just wants to be a good workman. I doubt the mix differs much from any of his sets. It’s much more of a document than a statement.
This isn’t the kind of universal, required-listening mix that transcends environment, what Scuba has put together thrives on a dancefloor. It’s hard to get through it without imagining how much better it might sound with a space to move around. Still, there are the undeniable moments; the serene blear of Jichael Mackson’s “Gedons” tranquilizing a busy percussion section, Scuba’s own house epic “Adrenalin” getting a 5-minute cameo towards the end. It might not add up into anything overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean the pieces aren’t thoroughly solid. That sort of dedication to concrete form over recklessness makes it that much more durable. There are patches of boredom, or forgettable grooves, but generally Scuba keeps his listener thoughtfully engaged.
So that leaves you with a subterranean, black-and-blue edition of DJ-Kicks that excels in the ways the Kicks series usually excels – by showing off nothing but the eccentricities and strengths of the featured producer. If this is meat-and-potatoes affair, it’s pretty damn sustainable. Not necessarily a mix for ages, but a mix that’s pretty easy to come back to, be it road-trips, background music, or a personal headphones-odyssey.