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Posted on February 25th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Aaron Tremper

Dubbed the “2009 King of Bass Music” by XLR8R (“accelerator”) Magazine, 26 year old Liam McLean established his image through a slew of short releases dating back to 2007 before releasing his much anticipated debut, The Vision, in 2011. Simon Reynolds of The Guardian News lauded the British producer, who performs under the pseodnym, Joker, as a pioneer of the micro-genre, “purple sound” or “wonky,” an offshoot of bass music that capitalizes on an onomatopoeic, mid-range synth bass and unruly time signatures. Embracing the explosion of dubstep and grime (both descendants of '90s UK Garage) in the mid 2000s, Joker’s latest release also features many throwbacks to turn of the century R&B.

Many tracks off of The Mainframe finds Joker opting for a softer sound driven by electric piano, especially on the album’s highlights. The retro “Midnight” opens with an upbeat electronic piano intro before delving into a sampled chorus of Jennifer Lopez’s 1999 hit, “Waiting For Tonight” (a cover in and of itself, having first been performed by the girl group, 3rd Party). On the promiscuous “Lucy,” Sam Frank does his best Prince impersonation as he croons “Lu-sayyy my name” over a low-key R&B groove that sounds like an outtake from Prince's recent Art Official Age. The lush R&B track, “Love,” recalls The Evolution era Ciara, as a gorgeous descending synth string hook sucks the listener into Rochelle’s pleas for affection.

McLean takes the most liberties on his more adventurous interludes and “Scene Suites.” The “Intro” overture is a well rounded launch into the album, featuring everything from brassy backdrops to piano flairs that recall the likes of Daft Punk’s “Within” and “Beyond.” “An Intervening Episode” follows in similar form with a Rhodes and brass segment lowering the tempo for a mere minute before diving into the album’s second half. The Scene Suites offer the most variety on the album. While the dark “Scene 1 (Qo, Nos)” invokes Joker’s mainstay Grime sound, “Scene 2 (Neon City)" features the squelchy synths of genuine Wonky. The third installment, “Scene 3 (Spirit Ruins)," is a gorgeous ode to the mystical, serving up a flute solo amidst synth sweeps, and bird chirps amidst hard-hitting beats.

It is the all encompassing, “Boss Mode,” however, that wraps up the entirety of the album’s eclectic sounds into one pristine package. Wonky, brassy, and nostalgic, “Boss Mode” is an adequate reflection on the eclectic R&B-tinged nature of The Mainframe. It features everything from Prince, to J.Lo, to Ciara. While The Vision found Joker comfortable behind the mixtables, The Mainframe showcases a producer venturing into more commercial sounds and retrospective throwbacks.

Track List:

  1. Intro
  2. Boss Mode
  3. Wise Enough
  4. Midnight
  5. An Intervening Episode
  6. Lucy
  7. Scene 1 (Qo,Nos)
  8. Scene 2 (Neon City)
  9. Scene 3 (Spirit Ruins)
  10. Mahogany
  11. Love
  12. Fuzz Bop
  13. Mixed Emotions
Joker - The Mainframe Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

63 / 100
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