As promised, Scuba’s third album is a departure form the dark, moody and cerebral bass music of his past. Press and interviews leading up to its release reported that Personality is often flashy, uptempo and dance-oriented where his last two full-lengths were introverted and sparse. The fragments he dropped along the way, like the album’s lead single, “The Hope,” with its hedonistic spoken house vocals and serrated synths, indicated that Scuba has been experimenting with music that moves the body more than the mind.
Even though the album is exactly the outlier “The Hope” implied, Scuba chose this one to stamp with the moniker Personality. It may be the least serious and bass-oriented of his records, but Personality is the one he chose to hold up as a badge of identity, a declaration of his presence in the dance music world and the music world at large. The opening track, “Ignition Key,” starts with a gummy monologue that acts as Scuba’s artistic statement for the whole of the album. “We are all unique,” the gravely voice begins. “Or are we?”
Scuba is not the type to approach the dance floor thoughtlessly, empty-handed except for a few booty-shakers that will rattle around clubs for a few weeks before being replaced by the next week’s freshest sounds—oh no. Personality rolls into the club with a message: Scuba’s dance tracks were not crafted by a computer or an anonymous bedroom producer with a pirated copy of Ableton—Scuba’s tracks were built by a real-live guy, a professional né Paul Rose, and by god, you had better recognize.
“July” is in-your-face with sleek 1980s-era synth stabs that smack with a look-at-me aftertaste. “NE1BUTU” is similarly catchy, channeling a TGIF ebullience more akin to Calvin Harris’s production on “We Found Love” than the minimalist, glitchy gloom of an old Scuba cut like “The Upside.” While DJs like SBTRKT, Zomby and (of course) Deadmau5 opt to safeguard their identities with masks, Scuba aims to be noticed and to be remembered.
After all, it looks like the age of the anonymous DJ has come to a screeching halt. DJs are no longer by default caged away in a booth and known only by a cult following, if lucky. They are the headliners of sold-out arena shows and colossal festivals, rectors of the most lucrative genre of music in today’s industry—they are Grammy winners. Scuba, a stalwart presence in electronic music for about a decade, is due for a little holla.
He chose to make his mark with the Knight Rider theme song brand of retro bursting from “Ignition Key” and “July,” with the unrelenting vocal samples in “If You Want 2″ and “The Hope.” That’s not to say that all of Personality sparkles and bursts with Berghain color the way the glorious album artwork might suggest; “Cognitive Dissonance” reverberates with the same wobbling sub-bass with which Scuba’s name is associated. Although the majority of the record is devoted more to synths and vocals than to beats and bass, the sound of Personality speaks loud and clear: When Scuba turns up the speakers, you should bother to listen.