Peter O’Grady’s family has long played an important role in his career as Joy Orbison. His cousin Leighann introduced him to drum’n’bass and UK garage at a young age, while he credits his uncle, jungle legend Ray Keith, with fostering his nascent interest in dance music. On Still Slipping Vol. 1, O’Grady’s first full-length release—arriving more than a decade after his debut 12"—he weaves his family into the fabric of the record. Voice notes from his parents, sister, uncles, cousins, and Aunt Helen transform Still Slipping Vol. 1 into one of the most quietly moving dance music records of the year, while a playful sense of humor keeps O’Grady’s familiar mischievous streak in play.
O’Grady has, in many ways, been here before. His 2019 Slipping EP featured his grandmother on the cover, while his track “w/ Dad” sampled his father reminiscing about a nameless child. Still Slipping Vol. 1 takes this tendency and runs with it over 14 tracks that showcase O’Grady’s cosmopolitan production technique at its very best. O’Grady calls this “a soul record,” and it certainly feels like a lot of heart has gone into it. Stylistically, though, it runs closer to the many tendrils of the UK bass continuum to which O’Grady has put his name. “swag w/ kav” rides a beat with shades of 2-step garage; “better” is a scuba-deep house number, reminiscent of UK veteran Charles Webster; “layer 6” skirts around the airier moments of drum’n’bass, and “runnersz,” with its melodic sub-bass and twinkling synths, is close enough to what used to be known as post-dubstep, back in the days when Orbison’s “Hyph Mngo” blew up in UK clubs. It’s the kind of music where you can hear shades of everything but few conclusive traces of any one style, blending four decades of dance music with a lightness of touch that may surprise those more familiar with the corrosive techno bangers of Joy O’s hookups with fellow UK producer Boddika.
In the age of COVID, when many people haven’t seen their extended families in months, lacing a record with domestic chatter might seem like a sentimental cheat code, a shortcut to emotional depth that isn’t necessarily earned. But O’Grady employs a melodic finesse throughout that equals the best tracks in his catalog—amplifying, enhancing, and sometimes undercutting the ambiance of familiar chitchat. “better,” with singer Léa Sen, has a topline of exquisite tenderness, while slo-mo electro number “froth sipping” contains a synth pattern reminiscent of Orbital’s euphoric melancholy, if the latter were sunk beneath gently moving water. Throughout, O’Grady uses deep, melodic bass tones whose embrace is as warm and comforting as a fresh towel after a cold swim.
“froth sipping” also displays the strand of knowing—and often pretty funny—meta-commentary that runs through Still Slipping. The song ends with O’Grady’s mother proclaiming, presumably about his own music, “There’s something in it that you can latch onto, because it’s got… not a melody, but something you can almost hum to”—the sort of vaguely sympathetic evaluation that will be familiar to anyone who has shared their avant-garde musical adventures with well-meaning family members. At the end of “sparko,” meanwhile, an unimpressed voice declares, “The second you just change the language to ‘mixtape,’ nobody cares,” which is pretty droll for a release that is marketed as a mixtape, rather than an album, for no discernible reason. Sadness has a place too, among the world of familiar reminiscence: “in drink” starts with O’Grady’s mother talking about her own parents getting “into drink” before fading away into mournful chords and a distressed house beat.
Not many producers would wait 12 years to release their full-length debut, then have the nerve to filet it with self-deprecating jokes, wry commentary, and family misfortune. But it is precisely these touches that make Still Slipping Vol. 1 such a compelling record. O’Grady’s wonky melodic craft and slyly self-referential humor invite comparisons to Aphex Twin, signaling O’Grady’s continuing journey beyond the limits of merely functional club music. Rarely is electronic music so utterly human as on Still Slipping, its emotional draw as reassuringly complex as a grand family reunion.
Buy: Rough Trade
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