Dubbyness never sounded so good on this far reaching, morphing animal of a record.
Textures is very much a physical thing, something we can touch, feel and see. It is something we commonly associate with objects, environments, paintings etc, as a tangible living aspect, that appeals to the senses on many levels. This notion is not something we hear that often, however. The sound of crunching, noises that echo and grind us, could be described as textured, but it is not something necessarily paired with the sensory experiences of textures. Music however has a texture; it can be smooth, soft and silky, it can be rough, hard and edgy; or it can be crafted, echoed and fractured, as if we are being dipped within something to feel the environment we are being surrounded in. This is a common theme within the more experimental and boundary pushing of artists, where we are placed within landscapes and soundscapes that we can feel as much with our hands as we can our ears.
URA, on this record, surely creates and crafts one of those worlds. We are drafted into surroundings designed for us to interact with them, a collection of feels and vibes that very much feel sensory, with our ears reacting to every sound. One of his previous records, 2016’s ‘Dog Park’, very much conjures up this vibe of gritty city streets (with one Bandcamp member commenting on how it reminded him of the empty industrial streets of Vancouver), with lights, cement and road immortalised in the music’s harsh and dark undertones. When musicians craft this sort of narrative into their music, it creates a powerful listening experience, full of colours and imagery that we have seen before, but not became familar with, but have now paired it with this musical experience. Burial very much comes to mind, his blending of the walk home from the rave and his emotive and harrowing compositions a perfect photograph of South London late night tales. URA does a similar job here, curating a series of experiences for an empty scene, one for us to sense out and populate with our own version of events. ‘Entertainment’ feels like an album fulll of stories, one that is rich in text and bold in its ambitions. So lets take a dip.
The record kicks off with ‘Freestyle Rain’, that begins the story on a growing and sombre note. Light pads lie in the back ground, as a soft UK sounds riddim section grooves in the background, like a beating heart. The bass bellows deep beneath, surfacing at just the right moment, as the synths swell just enough to add a sense of urgency into the proceedings. The whole song shows us its sentences, its text and its presence, and we just reach out and feel it. The crinkly metallic sounds give this song a sense of touch, that pairs nicely with the instrumentation, to the point of which we start to look at how these other sounds feel. Next is ‘Bas Mas’, and this one starts off in a similar vein. A curated drum line kicks things off, that is soon joined by light pads once again, that move and interchange around the beat. The dub feeling is strong within this one, the drums changing up halfway through to accommodate this change in mood. The vocal sample adds a human touch, just enough to contextualise the tune, but nowhere near enough to take away the pleasure of losing ourselves within the tune. Pure Bliss. Up next we have ‘Shagwize Dub’, and this one takes us way down. This one takes us back to the stylings of Mad Professor, who explored the outer reaches of dub on many occasions, but here we have a darker tone. The dub stabs feel more sinister, more menacing, like they are only telling us half the story. The drums are impeccable, the groove immaculate, and provides a beautiful basis for these stabs to go to town on our senses.
Up next is ’10 Mile Aroma’, and the vibe continues. The shifting drums provide this soft, ever changing foundation, providing a solid basis for the swirling pads on top to do their thing. This grows and grows in momentum, but never out reaching itself, as the drums break away from formation and take it away a little bit. The sound design of this is so impressive, and again it goes back to the notion of this album having such amazing texture to it. It almost completely envelops you, the listener is taken into a world where every hi hat and cymbal has a sibling that works beneath it, operating to give the beat that extra level of dynamism. ‘Heliophobia’ is next, and its another round of blissed out dub euphoria. The drums are more sparse here, but make up for it with their pitch and range, working on multiple layers to emphasise those deep dub stabs. The stabs wiggle and worm around the beat, diving down and moving up high as they guide us ever further into the reaches of this gloomy yet intriguing world. ‘Shroon’ is next, and the beats come up just a little bit on this one. The movement towards more fuller and denser uses of synths changes the mood slightly, with a more uplifting feel, where the unknown steps towards the familiar (or deja vu?). Then it gets taken up a notch even further, with the emotive feels of the title track. If the previous tracks paired textures and tones with scenes, this one takes it a step further and really cranks up the feeling with the sound design. The drums are even more perfect here, seriously beautiful, as they begin soft before loudly proclaiming their place in the song. The bass lines moves along so subtly, yet with such passion and meaning, as the chiming dub stabs take centre stage. It feels like deconstructed dub music, where the regimented nature of it is messed with to craft something completely different. Those drums though, fuck me, they are good.
And now, we are reaching the end of the record. ‘Close to you’ comes next, and very much feels like a warm embrace, a feeling of intimacy and connection. The soft drums and warm pads combine to create a sense of security, the sparseness replaced with the full and rich comfort of having someone there to hold. The length of the song is indicative of this feeling never wanting to go away, and the tune could easily loop itself out until the end of time. Finally, we have ‘Junglist Lament’. This one sort of combines the feelings from the previous tune, and injecting it over URA’s phenomenal use of drumming across the entirety of the record. The blissed out piano lines, the dub vibes, all come together to leave a powerful mark on the listener as this LP comes to a close, reminding us of warm sunny days, vibrant autumn mornings, walking through nature and feeling the textures around us.
Tones and textures are important within dance music. When we hear that within synths and drums, compositions and drums, an extra level of meaning is injected into our relationship with that music. URA crafts a world that is vibrant and rich in musical exploration, where content, chords and feels stand alongside each other to give us an incredible, balanced experience. Immersiveness never felt or sounded so good, so seriously, take a dip through this brilliant album. Possibly 2019’s most impressive.
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