Scuba – Claustrophobia

The early nineties – indie kids look on in horror as dance music begins to infiltrate their cosy, dimly lit world of jangly guitars and art house noise bands. Eventually, they are forced to succumb as the influence of the acid house scene becomes all-pervasive – Madchester and baggy is born and your new favourite band is likely to be sporting bell bottom jeans and oversized sweatshirts. It’s all about the bass, the beats and whatever it takes to keep you happy and dancing all night long.

For many of us, our distrust of ‘real’ dance music ensured that while we could stomach a little Happy Mondays or Primal Scream, that’s as far as we were prepared to go, choosing to  remain blissfully ignorant of the music that influenced these bands.

Since 2003, Scuba, a.k.a. Paul Rose, has been making the kind of music that only true aficionados of the underground club scene really get. Invariably categorised as Dubstep, Techno, House, Garage or some flavour of all of the above, Rose has been at the cutting edge of a scene that remains impenetrable for your average music fan.

Fourth album Claustrophobia offers a way in for those of us with a passing interest in electronic music – the thing that strikes you on first listen is just how sonically well constructed this album is. Rose has created the kind of album that revels in its attention to detail. The swirl of ambient sounds and tinkling glockenspiel that prefaces opening track ‘Levitation’ is the kind of detail that sets this record apart from your average club record.

‘Why You Feel So Low?’ is darkly thrilling, scanning similar terrain as Jon Hopkins while ‘Drift’ and ‘PCP’ form the core of an album that mixes conventional club land fare with something a little more esoteric – Rose strays beyond the boundaries and conventions of dance music by injecting shuddering stops and weirdly off kilter noises that add an abrasive touch.

Song titles like ‘Needle Phobia’ and ‘All I think About Is Death’ indicate an album of dark themes; this is not party music with the oppressively bleak children’s cries at the start of the grimly ironic ‘Family Entertainment’ making for one of the albums most challenging moments.

Perhaps it is the fact that Claustrophobia was written following a period of illness, but its an album that feels like it has depth and feeling, a rare quality in the vast majority of electronic music.

With Claustrophobia, Rose has fashioned an album of darkly beautiful electronica, a record that delivers real substance and depth, beneath the surface thrills.


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)