Joker - The Vision - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Joker - The Vision

by Charly Richardson Rating:8.5 Release Date:2011-10-31

Bristol-based dubstep producer Joker has been plying his trade for a few years, releasing huge singles such as 2009's 'Purple City' (with Ginz) and various other singles and EPs on respected dubstep and electronica labels like Tectonic and Hyperdub. Yet, remarkably, the much anticipated The Vision is his debut album proper. And it does not disappoint.

While dubstep has been morphing, splitting and evolving with some of the original producers heading down the more experimental sci-fi/electronica path; others towards the funky/house end of the spectrum; and a whole new generation of producers who have mercilessly plundered the once underground sound to create a dance hybrid capable of mainstream chart success; Joker's mantra throughout The Vision seems to be 'don't fix what ain't broke'. His synth-heavy, rich textures, and West Country-meets-West Coast melodic sensibility all seems to have stayed intact; albeit with touches of both sharp grime and smooth R&B.

'Intro' is a luscious, moody soundscape, and reminds listeners of his apparent synaesthesia (he calls his music the 'purple sound' as he sees purple when he hears it). Even for a non-synesthetes, the textures are palpably rich. After a low key intro with a Plastician-esque Japanese flavour, 'Slaughter House' (featuring, strangely enough, a perfectly suited vocal from Silas of Danish synth-rock band Turboweekend) finally unveils itself in a huge wall of synths before diving into a crushing bassline. The ending even includes a killer synth solo. 'The Vision (Let Me Breathe)' sees singer Jessie Ware shining over Joker's base of computer bleeps, bass rumbles, and flowing keyboard counter-melodies. If Jessie J was in the least bit cool, she might sound something like this. Both are perfectly crafted dance-pop tunes, yet are still heavy and original enough for underground purists. In fact the closest this album comes to the crude wobbling bass of mainstream peddlers like Nero is 'Tron'; yet Joker still pulls it off somewhat tastefully. Throughout The Vision, Joker he displays a way with melodies which most dance producers could only dream off.

We are then taken on a slightly different tangent, through the dreamy futurism of 'Milky Way', a tongue-in-cheek video game pastiche in 'Level 6 (Interlude)', and then into grime territory. The chorus of 'Lost' is built around a 'Hard Knock Life' style child's vocal; an interesting juxtaposition when placed alongside a fiery and righteous state-of-the-youth address from upcoming MC Buggsy. It sort of works though. The clichéd lyrical theme of 'we've been doing this longer than you' in the other grime offering, 'Back in the Days' is a bit of a bore and the others MCs don't quite deliver like Buggsy. Yet it's still energetic and catchy.

Towards the end, things get significantly more chilled, with two nice R&B tracks, served with a healthy amount of Joker grit to ensure the taste of cheese doesn't overpower. 'On My Mind' features William Cartwright musing on a typical R&B theme ie, horny man wants to bed woman; expresses this sentiment in a sweet and charming song; doesn't sound quite so creepy. The piano intro of 'Electric Sea' could be a John Legend tune, but quickly emerges as a playful old-skool grove with singer Jay Wilcox discussing a theme we can all relate to: "Sometimes I don't feel like talking, so I just put my headphones and I just keep on walking".

All in all, The Vision is a confident debut which is both varied and coherently structured. Even the damage done by the borderline distasteful 'The Magic Causeway (Joker and Ginz Outro)' - which could almost fit in a Jazz FM playlist - doesn't scar enough to leave an unpleasant aftertaste. His influences are plentiful, yet he has forged his own sound. You may sometimes feel like you died and work up in synth heaven, but he layers and crafts his digital tools with such skill that it doesn't sound overwhelming. At points I wished he had made more of the breaks and drops, but then this would be pandering to the mainstream dubstep crowd, something he doesn't need to do. His style is quirky but still accessible (last time I turned on Radio 1, he was doing a guest mix). And when you discover he is still only 20, you will probably wonder what you have been doing with all your years. I did.

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