Photo: Jamie Harding / Courtesy of Houndstooth

SCALPING Embrace Eclectic EDM Approaches on Debut ‘Void’

SCALPING’s Void energetically captures music designed for a club/real-time environment and hybridizes any number of EDM, punk, and metal precursors.

29 April 2022

With their debut, Void, UK collective SCALPING embrace a multifaceted EDM/EBM approach, featuring high-octane drums, metal-infused guitars, and synthy textures. The band members contributed their performances via varied and remote locations, never recording contemporaneously in a central studio. Given this fact, the project’s organic feel is particularly notable, a credit to the band’s talents and a seamless engineering/production approach.

Opener “Blood Club” quickly illustrates SCALPING’s affinity for psychedelic atmospherics, unfurling like a cut from the soundtrack of a dystopian, albeit fairly high-budget, sci-fi flick. Toward the piece’s end, they fall into a magnetic groove, pointing to the rhythmic emphasis of the ensuing sequence. “Caller Unknown”, in turn, builds on the inchoate elements of “Blood Club”, integrating beats, electronic pulses, and a synthy hook that could’ve been plucked from U2’s Zooropa. Distorted guitars chug along, recalling any number of metal playbooks, from Black Sabbath to Rage Against the Machine. In this way, SCALPING streamline their diverse tendencies, achieving loose cohesions while resisting commitment to any single genre or subgenre.

With “Tether”, SCALPING welcome the contributions of Oakland-based rapper Daemon. The vocal takes a verse to gain traction, initially occurring as a placeholder. However, as the piece unfolds, Daemon’s phrasing and tone align more symbiotically with the band’s instrumentation, the track occurring as a punk, techno-informed yet still mainstream-friendly response to such combative acts as Death Grips and Ho99o9. “Silhouettes” builds on the rave-leaning rhythms introduced earlier in the set – dancey beats, synthy swirls, well-synched guitars, and bass – bringing to mind the adrenalized forays of SCALPING’s Howling Owl cohorts, Giant Swan.

“Cloak and Dagger”, on the other hand, is built on a jackhammer drum beat and melodic phrase, a classic EDM pulse conjoined with the “cinematic sweep” of Hollywood orchestration. Midway the piece contracts into a sultry bridge that quickly re-escalates into a full-on rhythmic and mega-synth assault. “Desire” opens with a buoyant throb and wash of melancholy synths that display SCALPING’s pop sensibilities, conjuring a cross between Daft Punk and early Portishead. A spacey atmosphere and fleeting melodies contrast aptly with a snare-heavy drum part. Accents grow more mechanical-sounding, the mix veering from its initial euphonies toward a more cacophonous gestalt.

The closing track, “Remain in Stasis”, features an alternately rapturous and nihilistic vocal from Jamaican-born and Bristol-based Grove. SCALPING navigate digi-punk overtones, steamy electro-beats, and an otherworldly ambience throughout the song. Grove’s fringy vocal and SCALPING’s gritty sonics blend to render some of the album’s more memorable passages.

SCALPING’s broad eclecticism is refreshing. That said, it’s ironic that Void is occasionally repetitive, as if the band agreed upon a repertoire of sources and sounds through which they somewhat systematically cycle. At times, a listener wonders if the project is less an aesthetic enterprise and more a workshop exercise in audial collage. That said, Void does indeed energetically capture what is essentially music designed for a club/real-time environment. Also, eclecticism is itself a hook for music-history buffs, who will appreciate how SCALPING hybridize any number of EDM, punk, and metal precursors.

RATING 7 / 10