21st March 2018 // Music // Review // Local // Hull // endoflevelbaddie
It was looking a bit sketchy last year as to whether Baddie would ever return to doing what he does best; making banging tunes that have masses of people in rooms and fields jumping like demented kangaroos. Such is the command to shake your arses to his music, it’s a physical impossibility to keep still when the man in the mask is working his magic up there on some of the biggest stages in the country.
The last time I watched a set of his in The Polar Bear, I actually thought the low-frequency of the bass and the mass of writhing bodies, was going to shake the sweat-drenched windows out into the street and bring the famous glass dome down on the punters’ heads. Luckily, disaster was averted, and the place remained intact somehow. I’ve seen the masked maestro rock some big stages, and have the crowd in the palm of his hand, but in an intimate venue such as The Polar Bear or The Adelphi, it feels like the world is literally caving in around you. And that, is what it’s all about, that element of danger is instrumental to the dance music experience as it was first conceived.
Electronic dance music was meant to be dirty, dangerous, heard loudly in intimate, incongruous places, and was meant to be downright Earth-shattering. And thankfully, after a period of inactivity, partly due to Baddie’s serious health issues, a little disillusionment and some internal issues which saw Player One go it alone, the man in the mask is back to show us how it’s done. I think he seriously considered turning it all in at one point, life has an annoying habit of taking over, doesn’t it?
Well, Endoflevelbaddie is made of sterner stuff than that, and fortunately not only is he back, but he’s back with a proper album, not just an album, but an eighteen track opus, chock-full of bona-fide dancefloor bangers that are going to be troubling foundations of buildings wherever they’re performed. And, as luck would have it, they’re all coming to a venue near you very soon. I don’t think anyone was expecting much more, never mind a body of work so extensive. The man has clearly been extremely busy.
Sometimes, it takes a momentous life event to take stock of one’s life, and decide to get back in the game and do what you were born to do. The period of illness, the lying around in hospital beds gives you plenty of time to think, and unfortunate as it may have been, it has clearly spurred him into action again. On a scale that dwarfs anything he’s previously undertaken. Let me just say it again: Endoflevelbaddie has an album of 18 songs in the can ready to unleash on y’all. And that’s a wondrous thing to behold.
Anyone who’s seen Scott DJ, knows he has an innate understanding of what it takes to smash a dancefloor, and this translates to his own output. His previous reworking of the Chaka Khan’s classic as Ain’t No Baddie, with Player One was a moment of sheer inspiration, Ain’t Nobody is instantly recognisable on any dancefloor, and it used to tear the roof off everywhere that had one. Well, his latest collection has got a handful of bangers that blow the shit out of even that particular song itself.
For an artist who’s previously only released singles and Eps, an 18-track album is an ambitious proposition, and one he pulls off with panache. We open proceedings with Bad Ones Intro with its mantra of ‘brother no bad ones,’ and as far as a statement of intent goes, it’s bang on the money. It’s an audacious claim, but one which is backed up throughout the record. It’s a short intro, it doesn’t need to ram its point home for too long, it’s there to inform us he’s back, and stronger than before.
The fantastic, filthy, Hospital Break is next up, and I may be mistaken, but the mechanical, repetition of the main loop brings to mind the unpleasant distortion of persistent hospital machinery whirring away. It’s clearly a nod to his stint in hospital, but it’s punctuated with some delightful female vocal samples and some masculine growls before it breaks down into something more peaceful before breaking back into the distorted banger that’s destined to destroy dancefloors with its relentless, hard beats.
Baddie Theme 2 is next, a more sophisticated reworking of his previous Baddie Theme. It’s more densely layered and sounds like a different tune, drums, synths and sirens replacing the hard-edged distortion that typified the original. It’s slicker and altogether more polished than the original which was no bad track itself, but this pushes the boundaries of how far he’s come since his apparent epiphany.
The album resembles a traditional hip-hop album in places, where the album is punctuated with shorter ‘skits.’ 20 Rounds is up next, and at just under two minutes long, serves as a break in proceedings until the tour-de-force which he hits us with next.
It might be worth mentioning at this juncture that ‘Mr Langthorp’ used to teach my kid at primary school, and was her favourite teacher by some distance. However, she absolutely refuses to believe that the man in the mask on the stage, serving up these electronic bangers is her former teacher. The next song though, Dance With Me, arguably the album’s centrepiece, causes her, unprompted, to break out the kind of moves usually reserved for Beyoncé videos. Its infectious synth stabs are that alluring, that she even gets up off her bloody iPad for five minutes as it causes an impromptu freestyle boogie. The repeated, implored chant of “All I wanna do is make you dance with me” are lodged in her head by the end and she’s singing along as the song shifts shapes throughout its 4-plus minutes. There’s drops and breaks galore, and it’s going to be tearing up dancefloors wherever it’s dropped. There’s probably no better barometer than a six-year-old’s immediate response, so it’s a surefire winner before it’s even been properly road-tested.
Arabian Loop is up next, and it’s a gorgeous, rhythmic pounding beat with what sounds like a snake-charmer’s flute coming in over the top. I don’t want it to end, it’s that good, but it’s another ‘skit’ style break before we get the next booming platter. My only criticism of it, is that it’s a little on the short side, and I wanted more, but that’s the nature of the way the album has been crafted. You get the feeling that some of the skits could become something else, such is the quality of their brief appearances. It’s not a criticism at all, if anything, it’s the opposite, you get the feeling there could be two albums’ worth of material here.
How I Get Down is in the same vein as Dance With Me in the sense that it’s going to be causing mayhem wherever it’s played. It’s destined to be another crowd favourite; it has all the right ingredients of a dancefloor smash. There’s loads going on in there too beyond the main loop and the repeated chant of “that’s how I get down,” it’s a stew full of weird and wonderful offbeat squelches and beeps going on beneath the surface. Certifiable crowd pleaser again. We’re doing great so far and we’re not halfway through yet.
Oh Drat! The next skit is Avalanches-esque in its use of samples and spoken intro mock-misunderstanding of computers. It resembles old-Skool Atari 8-bit sound effects in places, and then it’s over and we’ve got Honey featuring the departed Player One. It feels like a deliberate slowing of the relentless pace we’ve been subjected so far. Baddie’s former cohort does a great job with the rap, and it causes a slight change in atmosphere which is clearly intentional as we’ve been battered until now. It’s a welcome slow-jam though, and sonically there’s loads going on; it’s Acid Jazz meets the streets and it’s a great piece which gives us a welcome breather. Then, we’re back with UUUUHHH! The next skit which introduces us to the next bouncing number.
In The Studio kicks off with harsh dance beats which don’t let up for the duration, it’s very early Chemical-Brothers-meets-The-Prodigy at their most visceral, with female vocal samples to soften the edges a bit. It’s a tough-sounding pounder that’s designed for late in the night, when your head needs slamming against the back wall. Deeper follows, which is another rhythmic smasher that speeds up Deborah Cooper’s vocal from Pride (A Deeper Love) into something much more menacing. Again, you don’t want it to end, but what follows more than compensates for its brevity.
On And On And On is a clash of hip-hop drumbeats, squelchy synth sounds with guitars, containing the titular mantra in another highlight of the record. These days, it’s common to front-load albums with big songs and then tail off at the end. It’s definitely not the case here, as we’re barely given a breather and it’s on to the next dancefloor-botherer; it’s a thrilling ride, and an almost exhausting sensory assault as it doesn’t let up, which all great dance albums should strive to achieve.
Plucky is next, with its stabby synths and widescreen feel, which gives way to A Wonderful Feeling, which kicks off with a mournful woodwind sound, then the drums kick in and we’ve got a trip-hop style tune on our hands with a female spoken-word meditation about “floating higher and higher.” It’s reminiscent of The Orb if they were locked in a room with Massive Attack, and it’s a beautiful change of pace, readying us for the final three tracks, the next of which, Slumped, as the title implies, is indeed slower in tempo than the preceding club-oriented killer tunes.
The penultimate String Thing quickens things up again, but not excessively so. It’s a driving, mid-tempo track, which is obviously string-laden, which adds to the pulsating beat and organ-like synths buried just beneath the surface. It’s another highlight and you get the sense that a lot of thought has gone into the album’s sequencing, as it concludes on the brief, Bells Outro, which brings proceedings to a satisfying close.
As previously mentioned, the album resembles a hip-hop album in structure, containing, as it does, electronic ‘skits’ or soundbites that connect the big tunes, of which there are plenty. It’s a masterstroke of holding back before letting rip. In writing, they tell you to hold back for as long as you can until the big reveal. And Scott’s done this expertly; the shorter numbers serve as precursors of what’s to come, or in some cases, misleading us so that what comes next is even more of a surprise.
It’s been a long time coming, this debut album by Endoflevelbaddie, but it’s been worth the wait. His time away seems to have reinvigorated him and given him a renewed sense of purpose, because this record is a masterclass in how to present an electronic album. He knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, and it’s perfectly-paced, resembling a typical night out. In fact the sequencing of the tracks are synonymous with the clubbing experience: warming up, dropping absolute screamers mid-set, then bringing things to a close as the sun peeks through your curtains. Time away to reflect has obviously paid huge dividends and this album deserves to be heard far and wide, and it’s about time he got his dues outside the city of Hull, because he should be massive.
Photograph Courtesy Of - Anna Bean