Of the multitude of artist names that Mark Pritchard has used for his musical outings—both solo and collaborative—the mid '90s drum & bass moniker Chameleon perhaps describes his musical persona best. In a career that almost spans two decades, this enigmatic producer has released accomplished music in a variety of genres, going through ambient, house, jazz, Latin, hip-hop, house and more. The recently released Dirtbox EP is yet another of his takes on hip-hop under the Harmonic 313 moniker.
The title track sets things off with a patois voice declaring that the soundboy must turn things up. He's right: It's a track best played loud. "Dirtbox" is a genre-defying rumbler with bright laser synth stabs and echoing snares reaching out over the menacing and wobbly bass line. "Arc Light," meanwhile, is a hip-hop cut previously featured on Global Communication's 2006 Fabric mix. Strings and synth pads are tied together in beautiful harmonic unison, backed by a steady beat and a chirpy synth. Definitely the highlight of the EP, "Arc Light" is a poignant heart-tugging affair, its melodic progression a reminder that sometimes instrumental hip-hop tunes tell stories better than any MC ever could.
On the b-side things don't work out quite as well. The ideas and influences that were expertly executed on the first-half feel incomplete and uninspired on its latter half. "The Returners" is another electronic-tinged instrumental hip-hop number featuring similar ingredients as "Arc Light," but the outcome is not nearly as grabbing or memorable. Closing track "Wobbz" starts of as a dancehall-dubstep hybrid, with bleeps and stabs ringing over a booming bass and staccato drums. Later, a drum & bass break sneaks its way into the arrangement driving its energy levels up a notch, but it still feels like a sluggish affair.
While a common thread might be distinguished in its BPMs and the drawing of influence from UK bass music, Dirtbox lacks coherence. Some of the tracks sound like weapons for the arsenal of the discerning dubstep DJ, while others come off like home listening hip-hop cuts. Eclecticism is a hard thing to master, it seems, even for a chameleon like Pritchard.
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Tracklist: Harmonic 313 - Dirtbox EP A1 Dirtbox
A2 Arc Light
B1 The Returners