A/T/O/S: A/T/O/S
Deep Medi

Not a whole lot of information accompanies this debut full-length release from A/T/O/S (A Taste Of Struggle), a Deep Medi Musik project featuring Amos & Truenoys, aside from a few background details concerning a 2013 self-titled single featuring remixes by Skream and Commodo and a Deep Medi Live performance at London Jazz Cafe. What the fifteen-track collection ostensibly offers is fifty-six minutes of soulful trip-hop elevated, on the one hand, by hushed female vocalizing and a powerfully moody vibe but diminished, on the other, by an excessive reliance on a single tempo; put otherwise, the material fixates so unvaryingly on a generally slow tempo that a weary quality—lugubriousness, if you prefer—begins to seep into the listening experience as the album progresses.

Despite that sameness in tempo, there is variety in the music itself, with tracks drawing on hip-hop, R'n'B, broken beat, bleepy funk, and dubstep, even if trip-hop is the dominant flavour. Amos & Truenoys consistently show themselves to be artful arrangers and deft conveyors of mood and emotion, much of it bleak and brooding. A dusty character infuses lurching beat patterns that, accompanied by piano (acoustic and electric), synths, and strings and smeared with vinyl crackle and other atmospheric detail, typically lag behind the beat (nowhere more evident than during “Hey”) and deepen the music's faded vibe as a result.

Strong tracks surface throughout: songs such as “What I Need” and “A Taste of Struggle” make powerful impressions due to impassioned vocals and lurching, broken beat grooves; the haunting “Roses in my garden” refrain helps make “Roses” one of the album's more memorable productions; and “Run” and “No Heart,” like so much of the album material, benefit from vocal performances that are equally sensual and alluring. The album also ends on a high note with “Variations,” eight minutes of dreamily expansive head-nod material and a wholeheartedly compelling argument for the A/T/O/S sound. Admittedly, an argument can be proffered in defence of that tempo fixation, one that argues in favour of the overall consistency that such a strategy produces. Still, some greater degree of tempo variation would have been possible without detracting too much from the mood Amos & Truenoys set out to establish on the album.

April 2014