Providing the backdrops for Aesop Rock’s early releases got Blockhead through the door, leading to his own solo career as an instrumentalist. Comparisons to DJ Shadow were inevitable, as Block employed a similar brand of moody atmospherics, vintage samples, and heavy drum samples found on Shadow’s Endtroducing. But while Shadow seemed to abandon that style to experiment with different sounds on later releases (for better or for worse), Blockhead has ran with it, carving out now four albums in arguably the same style. By now, Blockhead has created his own signature sound, and comparisons to Shadow at this point in the game seem lost and forgotten.
The Music Scene is Block’s fourth magnum opus with Ninja Tune, carrying on tradition created with his first three releases. Like Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book before it, Blockhead isn’t afraid to increase the tempo this time around, as songs like “It’s Raining Clouds” and “Only Sequences Change” are faster than the standard 80 BPM fare, yet don’t lose the emotional impact of his slower selections. The more paced songs are here as well, as the irrelevantly titled “Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer” plays like the soundtrack to the closing of a smokey club in 1960′s Paris, then evolving into something else midway through the track as morning rolls around.
As far as experimenting with new sounds, it’s definitively Blockhead all the way through, there are no curveballs or excruciating attempts at changing his style. There are a few new styles employed here, however. The “Tricky Turtle” plays like an Al Green sample that RZA had his eyes on, but then got snatched up by Blockhead to be transformed into a bohemian dancefloor banger. “Four Walls” actually finds Block using autotune (!), but done in the most brilliant way possible – think Daft Punk, not T-Pain.
The only fault that could be brought up here as that Blockhead has not significantly evolved as an artist over the course of his last few albums. While this makes the tracks on The Music Scene interchangeable with any of his other albums, to many this may be a strength, as the old “if ain’t broke…” adage applies. But if we are going to get nitpicky, longtime fans of Block will be able to predict the rhythm and count he’s gonna hit that horn sample.
For a completely instrumental artist, it’s hard for Blockhead to make any kind of definitive statement through his music, but one track speaks louder than the others. The title track features a vintage sample that sings “the music scene has got me down / cause I don’t want to be a clown”. Couple this with the brilliant album cover that features a desolate flooded wasteland with only animals left roaming the once bustling downtown area, and the words The Music Scene stamped across the top, his statement is clear. Despite the hardships that have fallen on the industry, Blockhead continues to do what he does best, with no regrets. – DJ Pizzo
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