Best-known as the less beardy half of socially-conscious hip-hop duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, producer Daniel Stephens now follows in the footsteps of his Essex MC bandmate by launching a solo career with this debut album, Space Between The Words.
Whereas his usual partner in crime’s articulate and witty rhymes have taken centre stage on their two collaborative efforts, it’s Le Sac’s ability to create an eclectic but equally captivating array of soundscapes which warrant the attention here.
Setting the eclectic tone from the outset, opener “Long Night Of Life” begins with handclap rhythms and gently chiming piano keys before bursting into an atmospheric slice of industrial electro-rock made even the more intense by Merz’s increasingly anguished tones. Changing tact immediately, “Play Along” adopts a Notting Hill carnival feel with its steel drums, bouncy elastic bass-lines and Sarah Williams’ chopped-up sweetly-sung vocals, while Emmy The Great channels the haunting quiver of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons on the claustrophobic dubstep of “Memorial.”
It’s to Dan Le Sac’s credit that despite flirting with everything from lush folktronica (“Zephyr”) to speaker-blowing Transformer-aping electro (“Good Time Gang War”), the album still hangs together as a cohesive affair, while other than “Beside,” a half-hearted attempt to replicate the low-key melancholy of The xx, each experiment is tackled with the kind of conviction that has become synonymous with his regular day-job.
The two cover versions are just as inspired. “Break Of Dawn” transforms Rhythm On The Loose’s 90s club classic into a sorrowful trip-hop number which slowly builds up to a retro acid-house finale, while the twanging sadcore indie of Arab Strap’s “Cherub” is given a slightly disorientating makeover with the help of some clattering percussion and Pete & The Pirates’ frontman Pete Hefferan’s despairing echoed delivery.
Le Sac can’t quite leave the ghost of Scroobius Pip behind. The distorted crunk of “Caretaker” is one of two tracks featuring the similarly quick-fire vocals of grime rapper B. Dolan, while Joshua Idehen lends a street poetry vibe to the Chemical Brothers-esque “Tuning.” But as its self-knowing title suggests, Space Between The Words is an album that works best when Le Sac’s creative genre-straddling production does the talking.
ALBUM RATING 4 Stars (out of five)