Highly touted dubstep scenemaker (DJ, producer, label head, ostensible great white hope) Caspa opens his debut album, Everybody's Talking, Nobody's Listening!, with, ironically enough, some talking: the legendary U.K. reggae DJ David Rodigan asserting that "it's all about the music" and sketching an implied sonic and cultural lineage leading directly back to "King Tubby's echo chamber in western Kingston." It's an odd choice for a keynote, and a rather dubious connection, because the music that follows lands pretty squarely on the least roots-oriented end of the dubstep continuum. Despite a vague Jamaican flavor imparted by guest MCs on a few cuts (most notably Roni Size compatriot MC Dynamite, always a likable presence, though he's more of a grime/hip-hop hypeman than a true ragga toaster) and the genre's de facto half-time skank undergirding about two-thirds of the set, there's relatively little reggae influence discernible here, and almost none of the organic, reverberant, dubby haze favored by producers like Burial. Instead, Caspa's productions are cold and mechanical, often strident and occasionally somewhat sterile-feeling, but nonetheless brutally effective dance music, albeit dance music of a curiously sluggish strain. There may be hints of heat and humanity in these grooves, and moments of woozy intoxication, but they derive strictly from the interplay of rhythms themselves, while the textures remain resolutely forbidding and industrial. Caspa's sound is presented at its most potent, elemental form in the instrumental cuts: the spare, ominous "Low Blow," with its trademark midrange wobbles and pummeling bass; the strobed, colorless zapping of "Marmite." The bleepy "I Beat My Robot" and "The Terminator" hit just as hard while offering just slightly more musical range, which could almost be taken for playfulness. Elsewhere, the vocal cuts are decent if fairly undistinguished musically (though "The Takeover" does amusingly feature its own screwed-and-chopped remix outro), while a handful of stylistic experiments reaching beyond Caspa's comfort zone (slick R&B on "Lon-Don City," downtempo acid jazz on "Victoria's Secret") are passable in themselves but feel out of place. He leaves listeners with a final pair of curiosities: the jittery, obnoxious Streets-like pop-grime-house oddity "Disco Jaws" and an evidently nostalgic tribal-ambient excursion titled "Back to '93," which is the album's longest and probably most incongruous cut. Taken together with the aggrandizing intro track, it seems there is some attempt being made here at a statement about U.K. urban dance culture/history, and, presumably, Caspa's place within it. The album itself is hardly strong enough of a musical statement to make much of that premise (notwithstanding the foolhardiness of historicizing yourself on your own debut album), but it's certainly got a lot of energy.
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AllMusic Review by K. Ross Hoffman
feat: Dynamite MC
feat: Dynamite MC