"Bass music" arguably wouldn't be what it is right now without Addison Groove. Though not the sole driving factor, it's difficult to imagine the kind of blanketing influence footwork has had over producers from both sides of the Atlantic without his legendary "Footcrab." Early Addison Groove mixes seamlessly combined juke, footwork and ghetto house for what were then mostly uninitiated dubstep audiences. But just as that new generation of producers has internalized juke and footwork into hybrid forms, so Tony Williams' project has incorporated styles including old school electro ("Work It") and weird suite-like composites ("This Is It"). His debut album Transistor Rhythm—landing on Modeselektor's hot-streaking 50 Weapons—continues this exploration of the mid-late '90s, by way of 2012.
Transistor Rhythm is not a footwork album, and if you're expecting one, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, it's a sort of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink rave music, viewed through the fisheye lens of prime Dance Mania. It's actually kind of frightening how accurate some of Williams' facsimiles of the label are, particularly the pair of Spank Rock-featuring tracks near the beginning of the album. "Bad Things" and especially "Beeps" are dead ringers for vintage DJ Funk, with the latter's staccato chants of "fuck, fuck you bitch" like an answer song to his filthy-mouthed "Fuck Ya." Unlike the ramshackle charm of those old records, however, there's a crystal-clear clarity that proves absolutely devastating: with its claustrophobic synth swells, timpani-like drums and mini-earthquake of a bassline, the "fuck you" quickly turns from silly to damn near apocalyptic. No matter how closely he might emulate those old records, and no matter how spare the palette of 808s and loopy synths, there's a certain sheen here that feels ineffably modern, like he's buffed these beats to a chrome shine. It's a record that, in a similar manner to Nina Kraviz' own pastiche "Ghetto Kraviz," has an enormous amount of breathing room for its very few elements: each snare and kick drum is carefully placed, miles away from the slipshod racket of real ghetto house.
The other thing that pulls Addison Groove away from a religious adherence to the Chicago tradition he cribs from is his own UK tradition: the suave swing of tracks like "Savage Henry" or the rubbed-raw hardcore dementia of "Sooperlooper" are pure Britain through-and-through. There are some tracks here which just don't sound like much else to begin with: "Ass Jazz" takes a classic UK garage 2-step beat, sets the swing on "delirious" and then throws in some old-school horn stabs for a track that refuses classification. And with its bevy of weird, pseudo-ethnic samples, the up-tempo "Dance of the Women" could be a leftover from the Shangaan Shake compilation.
Often the refinement of aesthetic comes with formulaic sterility, however, and Transistor Rhythm isn't fortunate enough to escape that particular trap. Thirteen tracks of relatively barebones 808 funk can star to wear, and especially moving at such a (relatively) slow tempo Transistor feels a little bloated by its last third, like it's treading water when it should be doing flamboyant windmills and backstrokes. But throughout the album, even when he flails ("Night To Remember," "Rudeboy") or hews too close to his heroes, he never stops sounding like Addison Groove.
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Tracklist: Addison Groove - Transistor Rhythm 01. Night To Remember
03. Ass Jazz
08. Bad Things
09. Dance Of The Women feat. Mark Pritchard
10. Savage Henry
11. Incredibly Exhausted Bunny Ears
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