The term post-dubstep has bandied about quite a lot over the past few months – with James Blake warping early ‘00s R’n’B into angular, brittle forms on his CMYK EP and then piecing fragments of piano with shards of voices on his forthcoming Klavierwerke EP, as well as Mount Kimbie following their strong EPs with the brighter spaces of their Crooks and Lovers album. Arthur Cayzer, the man now known as Pariah isn’t so much post-dubstep as post-everything – UKG, Dilla, maybe even FlyLo. The result is Safehouses, essentially a double EP that strides across genres with an almost naïve self-confidence.
Having first come to wider attention with the track ‘Detroit Falls’ in 2009, Pariah has taken his time to develop his expansive sound, not least because he’s still studying – he is, like Blake, frighteningly young. Safehouses could be considered a work in progress then – it’s tempting to view Cayzer’s genre hopping as an ongoing search to define his own particular sound. While the tracks on this EP (stretching generously to 29 minutes) are something of a mixed bag, when the quality’s this high it’s difficult to be disappointed.
‘The Slump’ kicks off with a particularly inhuman, mechanical beat – thunderous and metallic, it’s humanised by the now familiar muffled vocal samples that gave Burial’s records a mysterious, emotive quality. Here, they’re pummelled into isolation, before giving way to ‘Prism’. Initially an equally brittle affair, something begins to give way as the track builds to a looping vocal that means it morphs into something like a ‘90s house track – it just goes to show how the introduction of a vocal sample can change the tone of a song, something which it sounds like Cayzer understands and is keen to explore.
Safehouses gives way to reveal slightly more accessible rewards as it continues. ‘Railroad’ filters its 2-step beat through a hazy atmosphere, its constant pulse stuttering in and out of the wash of woozy vocal samples. It constantly threatens to take off, but Cayzer holds it back. ‘Crossed Out’, however, does – its cut up voices intertwine with the frantic beats to form the EP’s pinnacle. ‘C-Beams’ is a collage – mournful piano chords hang in the air alongside samples of children playing, before being overtaken by half-step beats and synths.
The EP takes another left turn with the closing, title track – more field (or more appropriately ‘street’ recordings) give way to a heady ambience. It’s a gutsy and quite beautiful way to finish an ambitious EP. Safehouses seems to point the way forward – it’s an impressive amalgamation of influences, past and very present, and makes you wonder where Pariah will go next. For the moment though, you have these six distinctly varied tracks.