Album Review: Scott Xylo “J U I C E Box EP”

Senzu Collective, 2014

LA based label Senzu Collective recently released Leicester, UK producer Scott Xylo’s instrumental project entitled “Juice Box EP”. To properly understand the premise in sound of this project you have to have had a bit of knowledge on how LA’s beat scene impacted other media from which much of the 6 tracks take their inspiration from .

Since Its inception modern experimental and electronic sounding beat music from artists like Flying Lotus to Dibia$e has had an undeniable impact on not only Hip Hop, but televised and visual media. From the latest AAA video games to Cartoons there had been a strange need to tap into (what may have seemed like) a niche sub genre like this at the time for soundtracks.

It was also fitting that some of the beats being created were inspired by 80's and 90's cartoons and video games. Around 2003 (US Version) Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” Network started adding “bumps” to their programming, showcasing snippets from the instrumental works of artists on Warp Records, Stones Throw label and more.

While this was not the first instance of beat scene love from TV, It was distinct for Its selection of dreamy and at times uptempo sounds. From there kids that had production setup’s in their bedroom started gearing their music towards those bumps and this spread from LA to the rest of the US and other countries like the UK where Scott currently resides. His latest EP sees him chopping up singing vocals and experimenting with video games sounds of his own.

Scott starts off the project with a beat entitled “Apple Juice” where he takes calculated risks playing around with ATCQ’s “Bonita Applebum” and translating It to synths, while sample snippets of Q-Tip’s vocals pop up now and again. It would have been very cool If he tried to recreate the “Little Feet” drum loop, but you still end up appreciating the solid attention to detail in his re-envisioning of the source’s chords.

Where I feel that songs like this and the second confuse me slightly is the mixdown of certain layers. While Scott seems to have great musical understanding, Its sometimes uncertain whether he seeks to e.g. keep drums quiet under the bass of “Apple Juice” by purpose or whether he’s lacking reverb in layers that could use It a bit more. Areas like this have always been complex in context to the experimental music fields, leading listeners, sound engineers and musicians alike to constantly question perceived “mistakes“.

Overall, I think this is a decent effort from Scott Xylo but I can’t help but feel like he has material much much better than this sitting somewhere on his hard drive. This may (I can only speculate this) lie in his need to use every beat that moves towards the direction of the drinks and video games themes. This would be considerably different to working on material over a long period of time and selecting the best of the batch. You only have to visit his Instagram page where he uploads 15 second bumps, including footage from Anime series.

Highlights of the EP for me were beats like “Grape Juice” and “Lemon Lime Juice”.