Deadbeat: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

It's been a couple of years since Scott Monteith's Deadbeat debut, Wild Life Documentaries , but he's hardly been dormant in the interim. Last year witnessed his appearance on ~scape's Staedtizism 4 (‘Fun…k?'), the release of his excellent Crackhaus collaboration with Stephen Beaupré, It's a Crackhaus Thing, plus he got married, with Something Borrowed, Something Blue apparently chronicling the nine months leading up to that June event. Wild Life Documentaries offered a sumptuous, even definitive, take on textural dub-techno but the subsequent projects announced stylistic changes. Both ‘Fun…k?' and It's a Crackhaus Thing suggested that Monteith had moved beyond the purer dub style of the debut to a broader dub-house-funk hybrid flavoured by vocal sample cut-ups. Prior to hearing the new album, one wonders if these releases have catalysed the style heard on the debut to something new on Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

It begins with Monteith intoning “When I was young, I used to love the sound of crickets” amidst supple layers of hiss and dense cricket chatter which will, in fact, persist throughout, often acting as bridges between songs. Scott then delicately adds layer upon layer of cymbals, echo, drums, piano, and bass until a gorgeous array of textures is established. The sensual detail that accumulates over the course of "Head Over Heels" is stunning and makes for a promising beginning, if one not terribly dissimilar from Wild Life Documentaries. "White Out," however, immediately signals a stylistic change, with traces of Crackhaus evident in the track's roiling dancehall beats. The piece abruptly changes direction halfway through, turning into an incredibly funky slice of dub-techno, still bathed in rich showers of crackle and clatter. "Requiem" then rises from its ashes, cavernously deep bass-heavy dub surrounded by swirls of shimmering chords and oceanic echo. From here on out, the style remains consistent. "Requiem," "Steady as a Rock," "Fixed Elections," and "‘A Joyful Noise (Part 1)" offer direct homages to classic dub style, with loping bass and drum patterns showered by astonishingly dense layers of reverberant textures. "A Joyful Noise (Part 2)" does deviate from the pattern as its bass and drums drop out completely, leaving only the rapturous waves of static, crickets, shimmer, and ghostly voices. The album comes to a spectacular close with the massive stomp of "‘Portable Memory (The Final Cut)."

As satisfying as it is, Something Borrowed, Something Blue is far from perfect. At seventy minutes, it's a generous but long album, and weariness begins to set in during the almost ten-minute "‘Quitting Time." With many tracks hovering about the eight-minute mark, a tighter, more cohesive impression would have resulted had the longer pieces been shortened slightly. Furthermore, there's no denying the suppleness of the Deadbeat sound but Monteith often seems more focused upon creating mood at the expense of melody. While the tracks' grooves are stunning, many remain grooves first and foremost. Like Wild Life Documentaries, Something Borrowed, Something Blue weds itself so strongly to a dub style that a unique Deadbeat style, one that would indelibly distinguish his music from any other, never fully emerges, and, regrettably, whatever stylistic advances in the Deadbeat sound that were hinted at by It's a Crackhaus Thing are largely absent, save for a few isolated passages. Having noted those reservations, there's also no denying that Monteith creates music of incredible textural richness and sophistication.

March 2004