Just try to sit still while listening to Lipp's intoxicating production on this blend of early hip-hop and techno.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was listening to The Outside while playing Bomberman. Or maybe it was a realization made after hearing the album for a third time. But something clicked. In any case, something just felt right as Eliot Lipp's tightly crafted IDM-infused beats and synths crept from my speakers. As I alluded to, his music works very nicely as a replacement soundtrack for video games, particularly older gems like Bomberman.
After reading up on Lipp, however, it turned out that what I thought I had discovered was merely his style of production. His blending of early hip-hop and techno bangs as much as it grooves, making it the perfect accompaniment to an hour of casual old-school gaming. And it does not hurt that some of his analogue synth work seems inspired by chiptune music, like the instantly lovable "The Area". The same goes for "See What It's About", which sounds like a leftover Boards of Canada track made for Sonic the Hedgehog.
Yet, as I strategically placed bombs to take care of any enemies within my blast radius, it become increasingly clear that The Outside is primed more for a club than my bedroom. That fact became obvious when I, a person who cannot dance worth a lick, wanted to do my best impression of someone who can actually dance. But all of that aside, Lipp has truly made something special here.
While some might argue that he is cashing in on the fully blossomed electro-dance scene, those people would be completely wrong. First of all, he has been honing his hip-hop/techno fusion since before dropping his debut in 2004. Secondly, his sound hardly relies on any cheap tricks utilized by his contemporaries. If comparisons are your thing, Lipp is like your favorite IDM artist meshed with Mantronix, but with a bit more balls. So it makes sense that the always experimenting Scott Herren, or Prefuse 73, put out Lipp's debut on Eastern Developments. The two producers clearly share a common and obvious love for everything hip-hop as well as the realm of electronic music.
From album opener "The Outside" all the way through "It's Time to Leave", this record seamlessly transitions from one banger to the next. The aforementioned "The Area" and "See What It's About" are both stunning efforts that are mellow but danceable. Even the far-too-short "Baby Tank", which sounds like a Food For Animals production, is captivating. Another standout is "Beyond the City". It draws from so many different sources that making a comparison would be useless. At times, Squarepusher emerges in the foreground, but then he's gone in a matter of seconds. The same goes for the French duo Air, whose earlier work comes to mind with the synths that float in and out.
Although there are some weak points on here, like the wavering "7 Mile Tunnel" that slogs on for a minute too long, that folly will most likely be overlooked by listeners more concerned with the steady groove than the length of the song. Also, while it's tough to label this trait as a frailty, The Outside is very much comprised of 'mood music.' Throw it on at the wrong time and you may find yourself hitting the 'next' button. Chances are, however, that after your first spin, something will grab you. And you will keep going back for more, all the while trying to figure out exactly what was so intriguing.