The Groove Seeker: Slugabed’s Sun Too Bright Turn it Off

On a biweekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

Slugabed: Sun Too Bright Turn it Off EP (Ninja Tune, 11/8/11)

Slugabed: “Sun Too Bright Turn it Off”

[audio:|titles=Slugabed: Sun Too Bright Turn It Off]

It’s appropriate to say that London is a breeding ground of zeitgeist-changing musical talent when it comes to the instrumental beat scene. In the city, you’ll find dubstep, grime, and drum-‘n’-bass nights every day of the week. And like many other UK cities, including Brighton and Bristol, London is on the forefront of current styles and approaches to beat-making. It’s also the residence of DJ and producer Slugabed, whose new EP, Sun Too Bright Turn it Off, sounds like the East London and Los Angeles beat scenes coming into one.

The new release marks back-to-back EPs for Slugabed, a.k.a. Greg Feldwick, as he makes a strong and steady buildup to his debut album for Ninja Tune. Parallel to the Moonbeam Rider EP, Sun Too Bright Turn it Off builds a spacey, multi-dimensional soundscape filled with chopped-and-screwed break beats, wobbly bass drops, and wild 8-bit synths. But the two releases are unquestionably different in terms of spacing and pacing. Sun Too Bright is a substantially more down-tempo affair, which in fact better establishes Feldwick’s ability as a composer.

The London DJ’s compositions are strung carefully between chaotic and meditative, a tension reached by a beat methodology focused on song structure. Though his productions inherently lean toward dubstep and bass spatterings, Feldwick makes the transcontinental connection by unleashing Brainfeeder-textured melodies that thrust his music into a futuristic universe that connects genres in unexpected ways.

Like many electronic-beat geeks’ music, Feldwick’s is meant to be heard in two ways, with either a pair of headphones or a well-qualified speaker system – or whatever the case, at least played back at ample volume. Anything less may diminish the artist’s attention to detail. Feldwick’s dynamic ranges complement his song craft, demonstrated by the opening title track, where he mashes high and low compressions together to form a divergent melody in a gritty dubstep frequency. The staggering beat is easily the liveliest on the EP, unleashing a monstrous synthesis of crunchy hip-hop kicks and sub-bass rumbles as electro-sound-chip beeps unravel from the shape-shifting, arpeggiated piano to form an epic melody that ties everything together.

The EP is riddled with subtle twists of a knob or switches of an effect. “Depth Perception” is a deep-seated groove with reverb-drenched chimes and broken chords, each layer seemingly tuned to its own atmosphere. “Dragon Drums” owns the EP’s most relaxed rhythm track, though it’s brought to life by the multi-layered synth lines orbiting around dub, hip hop, and glitch.

Perhaps it’s Feldwick’s aptitude for the unexpected melody that separates him from contemporaries, not to mention why he’s often compared to the late J Dilla, but one gets a sense that he can even turn his beats and bass riffs into melodic phrases. If Sun Too Bright Turn it Off indicates anything, it’s that Feldwick is more than a DJ who tinkers with 8-bit synthesizers – he’s a worthwhile reflection of the progressive broken beats coming out of the UK.

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