And now, to continue the extended comparison, for his third album Blockhead has turned his back on the MPC sampler that formed the bedrock of his previous efforts to embrace new technology. That's something which might start warning signs flashing. After all, Shadow did the same thing on The Outsider. But any dyed-in-the-wool trip-hop fans still in therapy following exposure to the occasionally inspired but often downright infuriating mess of hyphy, rock and indie also-rans that was Shadow's third album can relax. While The Outsider was a deliberately provocative statement, only the most eagle-eared listener will be able to discern a noticeable difference in Blockhead's style here. The fact that it sounds somewhat lusher and more multi-layered is down to his use of Ableton, but The Music Scene is really a refinement rather than a rejection of what has come before.
The same sense of urban paranoia that permeated his New York concept album Downtown Science can still be felt in "The Daily Routine" which—with its samples of two junkies arguing—sounds a bit like one of the infamous Bum Fights videos scored by Portishead. And although Ableton might have made Blockhead's rhythms more malleable—check the switch from hip-hop to drum & bass tempo in opener "It's Raining Clouds" or the way "Tricky Turtle" sinks from a funk-filled beginning into a bass-heavy lumber—the atmosphere feels slightly set in a Ninja Tune trip-hop template, with sampled spoken word segments a la DJ Food and some Stygian post-rock guitar parts similar to Sixtoo. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing of course: A track like "The Prettiest Sea Slug" is amongst the best the genre has produced. But while The Music Scene—unlike The Outsider—contains no nasty shocks, nor does it have any real surprises.