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RP Boo - Legacy!

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Artist: RP Boo

Album: Legacy!

Label: Planet Mu

Review date: Sep. 5, 2013

RP Boo - “Red Hot”

Just under 10 years ago, dubstep was all the rage, but since that genre has inched toward the mainstream at the expense of what made it so intriguing in the first place, the space has been filled by a number of artists who have hacked away at the boundaries between genres, styles and approaches. It has also allowed more attention to be directed on genres that have been around for quite some time, and perhaps have been plowing the aforementioned exploratory furrow in ways that point to the future more interestingly than dubstep’s overflow has done so far. Chicago’s Footwork is one such genre, and RP Boo, a.k.a. Kavain Space, proves on this, his belated debut album, that dance music need not be locked into endless sub-bass drops and shuffling garage beats.

Indeed, the first thing that leaps out on listening to Legacy! is how Boo approaches rhythm. The tracks are nimble, stripped-down and brittle, the bass almost non-existent whilst the drum machine beats canter along at rapid pace, gnarly snare smatters that surge in tandem with sampled strings and abstract vocalizations. Rather than driving the tracks, in the manner of dubstep or junglism, the rhythms act as further textures alongside the synths and samples, leaving wide open spaces over which Boo (and vocal samples) can throw in unpredictable vocal snippets that lie halfway between hip hop and something altogether more abstract. Opener “Steamidity” manages to encapsulate the RP Boo style in under five concise minutes: seesawing strings are buffeted by juddering snare rolls and hi-hat shimmers whilst sampled female vocals lifted straight out of slick R&B snake around Boo’s slogan-esque invectives. It’s almost claustrophobic in its minimalism, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Red Hot” sees back-and-forth synth oscillations battered by sharp snare beats, whirring rhythms, sensual violin loops and Boo repeating the words “Red Hot” over and over like a man possessed. At times, such as on the experimental “Battle in the Jungle,” Space sounds like a dance-oriented, one-man take on early Cabaret Voltaire or David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, with a Johnny Weissmuller-like yodel looped into the ground whilst Boo intones in a darkly menacing way over stripped-down and minimal repeated rhythms and textural zig-zags. Elsewhere, Boo displays his own legacy with soulful, hip hop-esque tracks like “The Opponent” and “There U’Go Boi.”

Where Kavain Space really triumphs, as noted, is in his use of vocals. His interjections are unpredictable, despite being frequently repeated, whilst his use of language (“Invisible” becomes “Invisibu” on “Invisibu Boogie”) is oblique and occasionally akin to some sort of sensual interior dialogue. The English language is chopped up, rearranged and looped until meaning is alluded to, but open to a myriad of interpretations. Or none at all. The voice becomes another form of rhythm and music, much as it has been with a range of artists, from Kraftwerk to Venetian Snares, but with an added shade of the anthemic.

I’m unsure of how well the music on Legacy! would go down on the dancefloor, because the tracks are so sparse and fleeting that it’s hard to lock oneself into a groove. But RP Boo’s longevity and influence clearly puts the lie to that impression, and for those of us who love music, in whatever genre, that distorts and mutilates its own conventions, Legacy! is undoubtedly one of the releases of the year, with an infectious, yet challenging groove that startles even as it enchants.

By Joseph Burnett

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