Franz Ferdinand, Grace Jones and Steve Mason have all recently permitted various dub maestros to give their last albums a bass-heavy makeover. But considering Toddla T’s 2011 album, Watch Me Dance, was recorded in Kingston, heavily inspired by the sounds of dancehall and skank reggae, and featured guest appearances from the likes of Jamaican vocalist Wayne Mitchell, it’s not quite clear why the Radio 1 DJ felt his second studio effort needed such a similar treatment.
Reworked by fellow Sheffield musicians DJ Pipes and sometimes Jarvis Cocker drummer Ross Orton, Agitated occasionally justifies such a seemingly pointless exercise. The Basement Jaxx-esque ragga of “Badman Flu” is transformed into an emphatic breakbeat number titled “Badder Man Runs”; the two-step garage of new track “I’m Alive” (which replaces “Do It Your Way” from the original album) is now an eerie fusion of disjointed beats, bass wobbles and mournful strings; while “Streets Get Warmer” borrows the bouncy rhythms from M.I.A.’s “Galang” (co-penned by Orton) to produce an infectious dancehall anthem.
But elsewhere, the new interpretations are either indistinguishable from the source material (“Heavy Girl,” “Cherry Pickling”), or removes its best qualities, particularly Ms Dynamite’s breezy vocals on the moody dub of “Fly” and the Italo house piano chords which made “Take It Back” such an authentic homage to the club classics of the 90s.
Elsewhere, the slick Prince-inspired funk of “Watch Me Dance” is virtually unrecognisable in its new acidic techno three-note form; the spacious post-R&B of “Body Good” is now a generic slice of electroclash; while the grimy hip-house of “Lose Control” sounds like a reject from charmless early 00s collective So Solid Crew.
Watch Me Dance: Agitated may perhaps help consolidate Toddla T’s reputation as the UK bass culture’s wonder kid, but although there are a few flashes of inspiration, fans of his Caribbean style of hip-pop would be better off sticking to the original.