March 31, 2014

Son Raw is unflappable.

The concept of underground Pop music is a strange one. By definition, Pop needs the mass-appeal to hit as many people possible, while underground sounds target specific niches searching for more challenging alternatives. Today however, we live in an era when Pop has had the life focus-grouped out of it by labels and radio stations desperate to retain control over a dying industry, with the results recalling fast food frankenburgers as often as they do good music. And while weird alternative sounds have never been more available for anyone looking, what about listeners who like big, hooky pop music, but who want it to not…suck? With Ineffable, DJ Q attempts to answer the question.

A legend of Sheffield’s Bassline scene – a localized, bass-heavy form of UK Garage and House music – one could expect DJ Q to deliver great dance music. After all, he was raving when Disclosure and Julio Bashmore were in strollers and his exhaustive back catalog is full of gems whose bass lines lead to screwfaces and winding hips. Ineffable however, is capital P Pop – a record competing with Katy’s B and even Perry. After a couple of instrumental red herrings to kick off the album, Ineffable hits you with a stream of sugar-rush singles as fun as they are well produced. Weekends get celebrated, cheating men lambasted, lovers, pills and dance floors sanctified – sometimes all in the same song.

Describing it is sort of a fool’s errand, you know what dance pop sounds like, right? Well then, this is some excellent dance pop almost entirely devoid of overused production gimmicks, and backed up with some great songwriting.  It’s also full of vocal performances by artists who have a surplus of enthusiasm and fairly little fame. Finally, it’s crucially all done with the straight-ahead enthusiasm of someone who genuinely loves the dance rather than a deconstructionist dork too clever for his own good, and you’ll find no overtures to the college set here. If there’s one shining idea that rings clearly throughout Ineffable, it’s that you can’t separate UK dance music’s best moments from the audience that birthed it without losing the soul.

Of course, it’s not necessarily an easy sell to listeners more attuned to compromised sounds: the digital guitar on “Be Mine” is straight out of a Neptunes-circa 2002 R&B Jam, a sound that’s still in the process of being reappraised. Likewise, for too many “serious” music fans, R&B vocals still require a veneer of distance or irony  to be enjoyable. Ineffable’s direct approach on the other hand, demands to be taken on its own terms – I can’t imagine anyone throwing “Tumblr” as a prefix to describe any of the music here. Point blank, it’s a record that makes no bones about being Black music in an era where crossover is king, but while “Post-Dubstep” dance music has led to a multitude of blog posts and a couple of OK records, it’s hardly been a ringing success musically. With that in mind, the moment is ripe for a return to the values that made dance music so interesting the first time around. Or to put it another way: your girl will love this record. Trust your girl. And if she doesn’t like it, I’d reconsider your relationship.

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