After two years of prolific output which found his work appearing across a number of labels (Planet-Mu, RAMP, and Donky Pitch among them), Slugabed makes a the leap to the full-length format, pulling together a few already-released tunes with a heap of new produtcions for a suprisingly cohesive and rewarding debut LP.
Slugabed's style has always been deeply rooted in the evolving sound of space-age hip-hop, and on Time Team, his beats seem to value the effects of energetic boom-bap over virtually everything else, using heavy kicks and snares to call for steady head-nodding, while a mix of hyper-realistic and utterly lo-bit synth sounds fills tremendous spaces around them. Of course, this isn't an unheard of formula, quite the opposite. As of late, it seems the amount of producers whose name one could associate with future-minded beatsmithing has been on a steady increase, but Slugabed has consistently been head and shoulders above the rest due to two main facts—first, that he has an undeniable knack for songcraft, chocking his beats full of tasteful melodies and gorgeous chords; and second, that his production chops have become nothing short of expert. This LP serves to further showcase his impeccable craftsmanship, as every sound is intensely chiseled, wonderfully detailed, and exceptionally bright. The sounds here don't lie behind veils of haze and grit; instead, they are completely in your face, impossible to ignore, and even the most kitschy of elements—Seinfield-reminiscent bass, gliding 8-bit leads, and wobbled low-end—are somehow rendered crisply appropriate. Time Team has a lot in common with Rustie's Glass Swords in this way. Both albums manage to verge just right on the edge of being unforgivable in their cheesiness, yet seem to find just the right balance, possibly even gaining listeners' favor by how unabashedly these usually shameless facets of their production are displayed.
But where Rustie's productions pull from a bit more of the UK club environment, Slugabed is firmly entrenched in the world of beats, and many of the tracks here run at a tempo that exists towards the slower side of hip-hop. Virtually the whole first half of Time Team fits in this mold, with the slippery rhythm and syrupy melodies of "Unicorn Suplex" and the electro-funk-tinged banger "Sex" serving as its highlights. The LP's second half begins with its strangest contribution, "Dragon Drums," an initially off-kilter effort that is eventually engulfed by a mass of skittering percussion and huge, buzzing side-chained pads while the heavy kicks and loaded snares are unexpectedly absent. From there, Slugabed continues to step just outside his normal boundaries and the resulting four tracks are Time Team's most captivating of all. We move from epic, but somehow almost dubby, synth work on "Mountains Come Out of the Sky" to the playful funk of "Grandma Paints Nice" before "Climbing a Tree" and "Earth Claps" close out the run with slices of bass-music- (and, more specifically, juke-) influenced slices of contemplation. Unfortunately, Slugabed ends his debut LP on its only real misstep, "It's When the Future Falls Plop On Your Head," a meandering ambient track that fails to really do much more than swirl aimlessly for two-and-a-half minutes. When you consider that every other song on this record is well worth its weight, this is an easy thing to overlook.
Truthfully, Time Team seems to come from an off-shoot of electro and G-funk beats that has recently felt a bit overworked in the hands of other artists. Yet, with a classic sense for song and an impeccable production aesthetic, Slugabed has managed to breathe entirely new life into this side of beatmaking, refreshing the staleness that had permeated a genre overrun with copycats. With this album, Slugabed firmly asserts himself as a first-rate producer, having turned in a debut LP that is short on subtleties, packed with triumphs, and hopefully telling of a career set to only continue impressing.