Blockhead – Bubble Bath

Aaaah, it’s time to relax, and you know what that means: a glass of wine and a bubble bath and, of course, the latest album from prolific NY hip-hop producer Blockhead playing on your home stereo…

Like an early DJ Shadow on a chilled out day (and without the scratching), this album is primarily spacey old-school instrumental samples mixed with strong but delicately-crafted beats and a mountain of great hooks. There are hints of other New York hip-hoppers in there too, with one or two tracks making me half-expect one of the Wu Tang Clan to start throwing down at any moment – but that’s not to say that the songs don’t stand on their own.

Generally, vocal samples are kept to a minimum and are well chosen and generally used very judiciously and to great effect – particularly the a-capella sample on ‘Over and Out’. There are some tracks with a more vocal make-up, including ‘It Is Not Yet Time for the Percolator’, which uses an interesting blend of samples from different musical styles and in different key signatures and switches very much from light and upbeat classic rock-n-roll vocal hooks to a deep psy-breakdown and back again, eventually throwing everything in the mix together in a way that challenges my musical ear but just about stays the right side of dissonance.

This is a feature of some of the other songs, too, which Blockhead himself puts down to his lack of a musical theory background and his consequent reliance on his own sensibilities. I personally get the impression at some of these points like there is a deliberate intention for the record to sound like it’s two tracks being mixed into one another, with peaks of overlap around the section breaks and then the previous section dropping out almost as one.

There is a kind of producer’s ADHD, too, here with most of the tracks taking a more “progression-based” formula rather than repeating sections over and over, and with each track peppered with new samples as it develops. This works well as a foil for the lack of lyrical content, because this progression keeps your interest and keeps the music developing throughout each track, most of which are over five minutes in length.

Keeping it interesting is some great live guitar and bass running through the album and the sampling work is really exemplary – the overall sound of ‘Bubble Bath’ on a bigger system is very clean but saturated, wide and well-separated and uncluttered but with plenty of really deep low end.

So go on, indulge yourself… kick off your shoes, lean back and just enjoy the melodies.

Blockhead: Bubble Bath – Released 8th November 2019 (Future Archive Recordings)


Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.