At first glance, Sheffield's most recent break-out star, Toddla T, might seem distinct from that lineage. This clown prince at the crossroads of dubstep and electro, urban pop and hip-hop is, surely, more a product of the post-everything, Web 2.0 world? In fact, Tom Bell is utterly rooted in his environment. Scratch the surface of his music and you can trace an obvious path back from his jump-up, shout-out Jaxx-like tracks, to Cabaret Voltaire's attempts to echo the sound of the area's steel mills.
Watch Me Dance: Agitated reasserts Toddla as Sheffield's native son. A wholesale re-versioning of his last album by his musical mentors—the aforementioned Orton and DJ Pipes—it strips the tracks back to their potent essentials: punchy drums, fathoms-deep bass and what Toddla has previously identified as, "this Sheffield clangy thing." Vocals from the likes of Roots Manuva and Shola Ama are retained, to varying degrees, as a sweetener. "Streets Get Warmer," led by an indignant, politically-charged Wayne Marshall, sees the brutal Sheffield aesthetic (essentially, digital ragga crossbred with classic bleep techno) employed to maximum dance floor effect. "Take It Back," in contrast, harks back, brilliantly, to the raw Chicago vocal house of Ralphi Rosario. "Lose Control" is a Gameboy grime track of spiralling avant-garde energy, recast in Sheffield electro. "Body Good" is how Nicki Minaj would sound were she working with Richard X. Both, like the provocatively three-note repetitive, "Watch Me Dub," bring the ruckus with a contagious, Major Lazer-style energy.
Agitated flags, eventually. Using the same toolkit, Orton and Pipes don't quite manage to dramatically reboot the slower "Heavy Girl," or "I'm Agitated." However, there is a lot of pleasure to unpack here. The Steel City retains its unique edge.