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Album of the Week: A/T/O/S 'A Taste of Struggle'

"Trip-Hop just got soulful" - introducing our new intern Joanna Wright, with her first published article on Spotlight.

Artist: A/T/O/S
Album: A Taste of Struggle
Label: DEEP MEDi Musik
Released: 03/03/14

Dub veterans DEEP MEDi have gone and thrown a curve ball with their first release of the year, and luckily for them new signing A Taste Of Struggle has knocked it straight out of the park. The self-titled album is certainly not Mala- nor fans of his label's - usual bag, but this bluesy, bass-ridden record is hard not to like.

The fifteen track offering comes nearly a year after the mysterious Belgian duo, known only as Amoys and Truenoy, released their brilliantly received single of the same name, which was picked up by BBC 6 Music's Mary Anne Hobbs, and featured remixes from dubstep heavyweights Skream and Commodo. The lead single, A Taste Of Struggle, with its deliciously smooth percussion and slick vocals, is nestled comfortably midway through the track listing, ensuring the album sidesteps the all too common sin of artists putting all their efforts into the bookends of a record.

Album opener Projects cuts a dream-like atmosphere, before a deep, echoing beat drops and Truenoy's soulful drawl winds its way in. The slow beat carries through to Deep End, which like Cosmos showcases the duo's unique knack for story telling. The lyrics - which are often grappling with tough subjects - on paper seem out of joint with the chilled, dream-like melodies, but credit to A/T/O/S who manage to pull the production together seamlessly.

The pace changes slightly as a curious combination of bluesy piano and synths fall in and out on What I Need, and heavily distorted vocals are layered up with the percussion in No Heart. It's these subtle switches between blues, downbeat dubstep, and r'n'b that give each track its distinctive sound, and what sets this album apart from so many other chillout compilations.

The songs are broken up by two Interludes, an album feature that many dispute the relevance of. Personally, I think interludes can help shape an album of songs that don't quite fit together; or rather they can simply help add to the overall atmosphere of a record. However, the benefit of them here? I'm not convinced. The first of the two, just a few piano notes set against what sounds like the faint chatter of a party in the distance, a combination which comes off as unnerving as it sounds. The second simply sounds like an amped up sample from a couple of tracks back, Run. Saying that, this is all I could find to complain about, and a mere minute of duds does not a bad album make.

A Taste Of Struggle comes to a close with extended track Variation. It starts off with a handful of intriguing other-worldly sounds, before falling into step with a simple but infectious beat. Add in Truenoy's buoyant vocals, and the whole effect sends the album out on a high.

Granted, this may not be floor filler material, but it's just the ticket to thaw you out ready for summer.


Tracklist:

01. Projects
02. Deep End
03. What I Need
04. Cosmos
05. Paper
06. Roses
07. Room
08. A Taste of Struggle
09. Interlude
10. Run
11. Hey
12. No Heart
13. Interlude
14. Nowhere
15. Variations


Joanna Wright


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