Pinch - Reality Tunnels Music Album Reviews

Thirteen years after his debut album helped open up new possibilities for UK bass music, the Bristol fixture returns with an LP meant to probe the various corners of his musical universe.

When Pinch’s Reality Tunnels was announced last month, many headlines focused on the fact that it was Bristol producer Rob Ellis’ first new solo album in 13 years. That’s a long time for any genre, but by electronic music standards, it’s a lifetime. When he released Underwater Dancehall back in 2007—incredibly, the same week as Burial’s seminal Untrue—dubstep was still in full bloom, and the genre was only just beginning to open up and give way to what is now commonly (and frustratingly) referred to as bass music.
As imperfect as the term “bass music” may be—especially when it is often used as a catch-all for a wide variety of disparate sounds and styles, most of them with roots in Black cultures from around the globe—there’s no question that Pinch has been one of the genre’s most reliable protagonists. Although he hasn’t released another Pinch LP since his debut, he’s proven to be a remarkably versatile low-end specialist, dropping collaborative albums with Shackleton and dub legend Adrian Sherwood while issuing dozens of solo EPs and building his Tectonic label into a trusted platform for all things bass.

Reality Tunnels is an attempt to synthesize the various parts of Ellis’ career into a single, coherent work. The album takes its name from a concept put forth in Robert Anton Wilson’s 1983 book Prometheus Rising—the author famously described it as an “owner’s manual for the human brain”—which posits that human beings apply subjective filters (“reality tunnels”) to the world around them, giving rise to our individual beliefs, values, and behaviors. In the context of the LP, Ellis sees each track as a different reality tunnel, a portal into a specific corner of his musical universe.

At its best, this makes for some incredible music. Lead single “Accelerated Culture” is an over-caffeinated bass-techno banger that’s on par with anything that Bristol’s celebrated younger generation of producers (e.g. Hodge, Batu, Bruce) is doing. Also impressive are “All Man Got,” a sludgy bit of dubstep with a live vocal turn from veteran grime MC Trim, and “Party,” a mutant dancehall stalker ominously voiced by Killa P—the horns on that one are downright regal. Those tunes are all in Ellis’ bass-heavy wheelhouse, but he steps far outside his comfort zone to deliver one of the album’s best tracks. “Back to Beyond” is a sumptuous piece of ambient with lush strings, angelic vocal choirs, and devotional overtones; electronic music fans often jokingly refer to the club as “church,” but this song wouldn’t be out of place inside an actual house of worship.

Unfortunately, not all the experiments on Reality Tunnels are successful, particularly when guest singers are involved. Album opener “Entangled Particles” is essentially an updated take on Bristol’s trip-hop legacy, complete with jungle flourishes and Ellis’ signature industrial-strength low end, but Emika’s vocals drag the proceedings too far into pop territory; what’s left is the the kind of song that might come on during an especially dramatic scene of whatever foreign crime drama you’re currently binge-watching on Netflix. Then there’s “The Last One,” which features Greenlandic folk singer-songwriter Nive Neilsen; with its melancholy vocals and gently strummed guitar, it strives for Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, but winds up sounding more like Mazzy Star. On its own merits, it’s not a bad bit of fuzzy grunge-pop, but on a Pinch album, it’s something of a non-sequitur.

Ellis does manage to tap into some classic Massive Attack vibes on “Change Is a Must,” which melds gurgling dub rhythms with the soulful lament of Jamaican singer Inezi; it’s more Blue Lines than Mezzanine, but the song is sure to satiate anyone who’s looking for some Bristolian trip-hop magic. Still, it’s difficult to hail the song as essential. Despite the diversity of Ellis’ output over the years, he’s always been an artist who fearlessly pushes music into the future, even as he’s referencing the past. His new album is obviously meant to be a more personal record, but in throwing out his usual rulebook, Ellis seems to have inadvertently wound up splitting the difference between nostalgia and innovation. What’s left is a scattered effort, and one can only wonder what Reality Tunnels might have sounded like if Ellis hadn’t followed so many of them down such sentimental pathways.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Pinch - Reality Tunnels Music Album Reviews Pinch - Reality Tunnels Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, June 27, 2020 Rating:

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