Welcome to the South Easy
At this point I’d say there’s a fair chance most of The 273’s Brighton readers will at least be vaguely aware of the work done by Audio Active. Since 2004 they’ve been putting on music workshops in Brighton aimed at ‘young people’, a term I’ve always found a little bit vague but usually seems to mean ‘teenagers’. In any case they provide opportunities to learn production, composition, and performance that will make anyone too old to pretend they’re young feel pangs of envy. Audio Active’s website contains that rare beast, a mission statement which actually rings sincere and inspirational, “We believe that music and the arts have the power to change lives. We want all children and young people to be able to access and learn from talented, inspiring artists…”
It’s a potent symbol of the extreme ends to which Audio Active will go to achieve these ends that for the last six years they’ve run workshops fifty miles away from in Rye, East Sussex’s furthest flung seaside outpost. For the last two years Audio Active’s workshops in Rye have been led by rapper Jon Clark of Brighton crew Spoken Herd and the multi-talented DJ and producer Skitz, renowned amongst other things for his pioneering work alongside the likes of Roots Manuva, Rodney P and Task Force on his 2001 album Countryman and a scorching run setting the UK hiphop agenda on his show with Rodney P in the early days of 1Xtra. The Lab are a six man crew formed out of their sessions, The Lab-Oratory their debut release.
The temptation to pretend it’s a masterpiece is almost overwhelming, but it’s important not to get carried away. That’s not to say there aren’t brilliant moments on it and it’s worth it because they’re the best type of brilliance, the kind of rough diamonds that reward digging. Moments like the inspired rant “Flapjacks” and it’s opening gambit “don’t hate me cos I’m beautiful, hate me cos I’m a douchebag” or when an intense futuristic soul loop is christened “Deez Nuts” and laced with glorious deadpan wordplay “I used to be addicted to soap but now I’m clean“. Verses like pretty much every one in epic opener “Masters Of Our Fate” but especially when the last guy opens up about his vicar dad testifying against the Brazilian secret police. Concepts like “Sticks & Stones” where the entire track is from the perspective of a tired bouncer.
There are flaws, for sure, they haven’t quite worked out how to make it sound effortless yet but in the meantime the work they’re putting in is impressive and most importantly they come equipped with energy and attitude. Take the opening verse on “Words & Bars” a fine performance from the guy who scored the daunting task of warming up for Jam Baxter’s guest spot ninety seconds or so down the line. “I’m not perfect, I’ve got room to improve” he concedes, “but with a voice this sexy like the Moulin Rouge I won’t stop until I rule the roost“. On first listen it’s not strictly accurate, even on repeated listens I’m struggling to find his voice sexy but I’m softening to the idea some people might hear it that way. I guess that’s the power of art, changing lives by redefining what’s possible. In any case, sexy or not The Lab-Oratory is a promising start and I’m looking forward to hearing wherever they take it next.