Music is an evocative channel. One which is driven by major labels, sales and the hypnotic celebrity culture which breeds the next passive product to fall off the conveyor belt. Yet, through this salutary medium – tales of adversity provide a cause for optimism for those given a second chance.
For the last decade, well-respected producer and Rinse FM DJ Marco Del Horno has been a mainstay on the underground scene with his sets consisting of a pungent blend of House, Dubstep, Funky and Garage. A plain indication of the progressive impact all genres have had on his output and most notably apparent via last summers’ bass banger with DJ Swerve ‘Ho Riddim’ featuring the terse Corporal like harks of OG’z crew member P-Money.
Released on Del Horno’s own Bullet Train Records imprint, Wake Up Call is his debut effort and as the album title indicates has a reflective air to it following a near-fatal experience for the Aussie turned Saff’ Londoner. Thus, this ringing catalyst is firmly etched onto this pensive and frank 10-track collection commentating on incidences of the personal nature. What instantly placates my ear passage are classic key stabs and a warm, rising bassline which looms akin to The Streets ‘Turn The Page’. The initial hushed whispers become clearer through the muffled mist “I’m a kid who wants a holiday romance / but ends up having a one night stand” – a candid reference that chronicles the honest inner temple (which most of the 18-24 demographic fail to declare) and a key harbinger of what awaits.
The downtempo sensibilities of ‘I Don’t Want You To Love Me’ has a balearic texture that revolves around a sluggish sample ably assisted by sweeping chilled pads. It soon hits a sub bass which surprisingly averts this mellow ship from running into immediate disaster. ‘Wheres The Line’ warms up with a measured bassweight rumble and samba like backbeat in the vein of Dario G’s ‘Carnival De Paris’. Del Horno rhymes about moral decline via youth crime, infidelity, and critiquing the current administration (go on my son). Fellow Oz vocalist Emi Green asks the probing query on the chorus. Not quite the quaint soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon drive through the Kentish countryside, yet this urban wordsmith is proficient in his murky perils about the concrete jungle.
Del Horno’s offer of a bottomless cauldron is indomitable and appealing. However, his versatility also serves to be his Achilles heel in the mid-section. ‘Black Diamond’ begins in an ambient fashion with the smooth soul vocals of Halina setting the foundation for a chilled affair. Lo and behold, the throbbing bass has a imminent reprisal to obstruct the sanguine tone. ‘Decision Time’ and ‘Never Enough’ both follow the obligatory trend like a posse of Red Stripe chugging hipsters. Far removed from the original eclecticism and homogenously spoon-fed to docile extremes.
In stark contrast, ‘Still Standing’ shifts between verdant strings; bouncy 2-step; percussive tribal and Bengaesque kickdrums. Experimental in theory but carried off effortlessly, it’s probably the only instrumental on the LP which engages the subconscious for the distance. Titlesong ‘Wake Up Call’ is his rebirth over syncopated beats and hints of 90s rave piano, ”a massive fuck-off ‘ouse doesn’t mean nothin’ with no one in it” in a cockney refrain a la Mike Skinner.
’Back In The Game’ and ‘This Town Is Ours’ are the last sufficient helpings which fill the famished hole. The former’s gasping sample abets a moderate intro that rehashes speed garage classic ‘Gunman’ by 187 Lockdown over snarling 8-bit synths and electronic reverb. Whilst, the latter is a 10 minute ode to the Big Smoke, name checking popular dance venues and seminal club nights across the capital. The digital and analogue combine amidst the four-to-the-floor blueprint and sanitised piano riffs, after a brief interlude the grandiose strings along with spiritual pads strip bare the soaring vocal for a pondering finale.
Del Horno’s personality and production on Wake Up Call serve as the Anti-thesis to the cliché. A smattering of beats that swoon between the mid and high tempos that has moments which are complex for consumption. Nonetheless, a respectable introduction which steers clear of below par prophecies laced with romance; drugs and hardship in the locale. Will his boundless musical awareness lift him into a higher echelon? It remains a work in progress.