Never short on atmospherics that essentially reproduce a night in a shuttered subway station, Paul “Scuba” Rose’s shapeshifting tracks are in a class of their own. While his 2008 debut full-length A Mutual Antipathy is largely powered by bulky half-step rhythms and glacial chord changes, it’s one of the first documents to map out the dubstep-techno meld on the mind of more than one producer back then. The terrain covered on Mutual is strewn with whirling samples and manipulated field noise, as Scuba tends to dress every recording with layers of oddly positioned sonics. Two years later, his equally subterranean Triangulation is guided by an even more prominent relationship with techno. And although the same attention is paid to ambiance this time around, Triangulation‘s accentuated dark house, drum ‘n’ bass, and garage land further from Mutual than they do the celebrated dubs and remixes that followed his breakout album.
Triangulation convulses with jittery breakbeats, and its downtempo moments are abundant with ghostly nuances. Indeed, the sound fragments tunneling through this set play as big a role as the distinctive drum programming and progressions do. Even amid the mass of tentative drones that introduce the album—“Descent” (obviously)—rustling clashes punch in and out before the chilly techno branded “Latch” makes its entrance. Scuba blends each track to the next, and when adjourning synth trails or radiant, swelling chords don’t slip into the front end of a subsequent entry, it’s vinyl crackles and random room noise. This pacing and mixing mastery, marked recently by Sub:Stance (featuring Triangulation‘s “Minerals” and pre-LP single “You Got Me”) or the Mnml Ssgs mix under Scuba’s SCB moniker, offers hypnotizing, cinema-sized afterburn.
With releases such as the Speak 12-inch on Naked Lunch, Scuba has cleared a passageway through garage, dubstep, and techno that’s littered with abrupt smashing sounds, diced vocal samples, or varying levels of tape machine hiss. Since 2003, the string of trailblazing releases on his Hotflush label (outings from Mount Kimbie and Joy Orbison have garnered inexplicably broad-reaching acclaim) promises nearly the same rewarding playback experience, if not exactly the pronounced experimentalism expected under the Scuba name. The producer’s move from London to Berlin in 2007 was in order for him to be closer to the breeding ground for techno, but the motherlode of decimated kitchen-sink micro samples in Scuba’s work never really allow for clean stretches of beats and brisk, pinched-tight bass rolls to steal the spotlight. This is active, cavernous bass music.
Triangulation‘s “Three-Sided Shape” contorts in a fashion that’s nothing less than psychedelic; the wafting melodies are stunning, with almost disruptive crashes and vocal cut-ups sputtering past Scuba’s clamorous percussion arrangement. Even “On Deck”, with its direct skwonks, cello-esque stabs, and house beat, is steered away from a proper club track finish. Like “Flesh Is Weak” from Scuba’s standout 2009 Aesaunic EP, “On Deck” is ever-busy with claps and bursts of air, down to its closing seconds.
On top of the smoldering, sinister styles he’s been exploring for years, Scuba’s Triangulation fires vaporous pressure from all sides, with veteran beatmaking at its core. Perhaps the Vex’d remix of A Mutual Antipathy‘s “Twitch”, in all of its well-trafficked, glitzy organ glory, is somewhere on your hard drive. Don’t overlook the stark original; it’s one of the more fascinating, noisy pieces on Scuba’s debut, creaking and rickety with metal coils pinging off its stripped drums. What he’s done since then is madness alongside that track, and Triangulation, in its divergent paths, is another monster of a step forward.