This is a review of "s/t" recorded by Stateless. The review was written by Chris Woolford in 2007.
Leeds’ Stateless, after seemingly never ending games of label (hip)hop scotch, have finally released their long awaited self-titled full-length.
Now out on Berlin-based electronic label K7! (famous for it’s DJ Kicks series featuring stunning artists such as Four Tet and Kruder & Dorfmeister) it’s a record which shows the band wearing their influences on their sleeve.
Obviously there are hints of DJ Shadow here (Stateless singer Chris James sung on Shadow’s latest album) but there’s Cinematic Orchestra’s Everyday, Radiohead’s The Bends and a clear nod to Portishead’s Dummy. There’s even, and don’t let this put you off, a hint of early Coldplay.
Other negatives should also be mentioned. While Chris James’ smooth voice is finely tuned and almost heart breaking at times, never more so than on the album’s finest triumph Bloodstream, it sometimes borders a little too close to burdened stadium rock star for my liking.
There’s also the matter of the timing of this release. Due to former label legal problems that the band have endured it should really have been out at least two years ago and suffers as a result.
Also consider that out of the major influences on show here DJ Shadow brought Entroducing out in 1996 and has drastically changed direction since. Radiohead are also now a million miles away from The Bends which they brought out in 1995. Meanwhile other heroes such as Portishead and Massive Attack, despite reformation gigs, pretty much called it a day a long time ago.
So overall there are no surprises that this record feels a tad dated and, having seen that the band have fresh new material on the way for a new album in the not too distant future, perhaps this one should be viewed as a time-capsule from 2005. A record which finally gives the public access to great Stateless songs which evoke memories of late nineties Bristol trip-hop and jumping around your bedroom as an enthusiastic teenager, Esquire guitar in hand, to Johnny Greenwood & co’s manic, snarling, shredding, guitars.
After all, this is the key to the band’s success - they were and still are one of the first bands that have managed to mesh all these distinctive and groundbreaking sounds effortlessly together.
Because it’s the moments in Prism#1 and the fabulous Bluetrace where the supremely talented Kidkanevil shreds the turntables and Chris James hits the overdrive a la The Bends that Stateless really take off. Bloodstream itself hints at fond memories of Fake Plastic Trees while the breathtaking InScape blows almost anything Massive Attack ever did well out of the River Severn.
And there’s no doubting that Stateless know how to pen a good tune. Almost every track is a meticulously beautiful piece of work, elegantly crafted into melancholy lows and thudding beat driven highs. All of it littered with clever loops, samples and outlandish buzzing, ringing or creaking noises which leave the listener clueless as to what instrument could possibly have made them.
Then there are the drums. Wow. David Levin‘s beats are nothing short of mesmerising. Punchy, almost electronic, they snap the tracks along, with the thumping bass lines smoothly riding alongside, into some of the most epic crescendos achieved by any band currently surfing Leeds’ post-rock scene.
So, despite its foibles, it’s impossible to take away from Stateless that this is a excellent piece of work, one which they have, to great effect, clearly slaved over during their years together.
There will be doubters of course. Perhaps it borrows a little too closely from its heroes, perhaps it has missed the “groundbreaking” boat and perhaps the way it borders on mainstream won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
But, whatever one might think, there’s no doubt that Stateless have produced an album here which could easily catapult them into the stratosphere of mainstream Radio 1 and huge indoor arenas. And if that’s what they want to achieve then on this evidence they thoroughly deserve it.