Monday, 6 May 2013

Album Review: Benga - Chapter II

Since Benga’s second solo album, Diary of an Afro Warrior, and now alot has changed. Dubstep (or Bass Music as some call it) is now bigger than it has ever been. In 2010 Dubstep mega group Magnetic Man released their self titled album which included two top 20 singles - "I Need Air" and "Perfect Stranger". The former of which featured Katy B for which Benga produced what is probably her most recognisable song “Katy On A Mission”. Benga now has a weekly slot on BBC Radio 1 with longtime friend and fellow Magnetic Man member Skream. This week Benga released his sophomore album Chapter II, read on to find out what this chapter holds in store. There’s a stream of the entire album at the end of the review too.

There isn’t an intro track to ease you into proceedings, instead Chapter II gets straight into the nitty gritty with “Yellow”. The bass line has a mean element to it which works well alongside the melody. There is a second slightly more mellower part to “Yellow” near the end, which came as a surprise but was interesting to hear. While I haven’t been to a Dubstep night, I’m sure that this is a song that would go down a storm when dropped.



The lyrics and vocals on “Smile” sound like they are targeted towards the Pop market. Whereas the instrumental is something that could easily fit into one of Benga’ sets and not sound out of place. It If I was going to listen to Pop music then I'd rather listen to something like this, but that is not a need I can say that I have to address very often.

It is funny that on hearing Diary of An Afro Warrior I had wanted to hear more vocal tracks from Benga and songs like “Higher”, “Choose 1” and “High Speed” have made me think the opposite. On this album it is the instrumental songs such as “Chapter II To Inspire” that stand out, as Benga’s creativity is allowed to shine. It is that which makes him an interesting producer and it is that which makes his music so good to listen to.

“Forefather” is a slight exception to that; it pits Grime legend Kano's trademark flow against Benga's banging production. This song is a mass of energy when it drops. It is only the chorus that lets this song down as it lacks the energy that Kano has builds up in the verses.



“Warzone” is one of Chapter 11’s vocal tracks where everything is on point making this song a winner. The trumpet section was a brilliant component of the song that I didn’t expect to hear and it really added something different to the song. “Warzone” gets a bit more darker towards the end - which is alos nice.

Chapter II’s first single “I Will Never Change” is probably the album’s standout track. While it is not a song that immediately gripped me, I did find myself humming the melody around the house and subsequently playing it repeatedly when out and about. The music video was wicked and was one of 2012’s best too.


While “There's No Soul” retains the feel of a Dubstep track, it would be better described as Garage. Garage hasn’t received as much love as it did in its prime, but artists such as Disclosure have helped bring about a resurgence of the genre and its inclusion here is a nice one.

One of the most interesting songs on Chapter II is the experimental sounding “Click and Tap”. It reminded me of Magnetic Man's "Flying Into Tokyo". As with both songs, you expect that the drop will occur any second - but it never comes. Whereas the latter was the intro to Magnetic Man’s 2010 self titled album, it would be interesting to know if Benga ever considered making “Click and Tap” the intro to Chapter 2.

Chapter II’s last song “Waiting” is one of it’s the better vocal tracks and probably one the best on the album. Much like “Warzone” everything just clicks on this song and both should be considered as singles. 


Summary
Benga said it best when he described the album as, “kinda all over the place, but it stays quite true to what I do.” Chapter II contains a curious mix of radio friendly material and dancefloor bangers. If this album was to be judged on production alone then I would rate it far more highly than I do now. The fact is that the choice of songwriters/ vocalists let this album down. It’s not that they are bad, it’s just that they don’t always work well on the songs they're on. Which is a shame as Benga is in the perfect place to deliver a career defining album, this just isn't it.

RATING
Avoid | Stream | Recommend

Chapter II is available to buy now on iTunes and you can stream it in full on Spotify.