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Reality Testing James Ubaghs , June 26th, 2014 11:45

We may be in the midst of a musical era allegedly afflicted with retromania, but there are still developments out there that somehow manage to feel fresh in this present day dystopia, filled as it is with £20 cheeseburgers, all encompassing state surveillance, and the ever-ridiculous Boris Johnson. One such novelty in recent years has been the rise of over-saturated rave, as perhaps best epitomised by Glasgow's Rustie. When done right, it feels like the equivalent of eating a kilo of weird chemicals ordered off the internet and somehow emerging from the experience feeling refreshed and joyous, as opposed to feeling utterly broken on a deep psychological level.

Lone's 2012 album Galaxy Garden was one of the better album length examples; a blurry eyed rush that occasionally meandered off into overly wooly territory, but on the whole managed to hit all the right and appropriately lurid notes. On his follow up LP Reality Testing – his fifth to date, and second to be released on R&S - the Mancunian producer takes an about turn into more tasteful fare; jettisoning the rave in favour of a smooth blending of left-field hip hop and house.

This isn't a first for the producer; his first few albums were solid slabs of hazy instrumental hip hop. Now, his return to the genre waters that birthed him finds him more technically accomplished than ever. As a whole, the album is an impeccably crafted and serene listen, one that never fails to be pleasurable, although occasionally it does feel just a little too put together and restrained. This is comedown music that works just as well for the preliminary early evening build-up, but it never quite hits any heights beyond that.

Reality Testing is an album that goes down easy, but crank it up and some real highlights emerge amongst the laid back post Dilla beats, and vaguely late period Caribou-like floor fillers. 'Aurora Northern Quarter' sounds a bit like Kool & The Gang's 'Summer Madness', (which is probably the coolest groove ever recorded if one's totally honest) spliced up with some delectable piano house. '2 & 8' is a rambunctious hip hop number, featuring a soulful and organic, yet off kilter quality that recalls the best Madlib productions, but the real centrepiece of the album is the previously released 'Airglow Fires'. It's a both elegant and thumping summer anthem, of the sort powerful enough to momentarily delude yourself that your life is an aspirational H&M advert, as opposed to the far sweatier, far less aesthetically appealing, far more shameful reality you're actually stuck in.

The rest of the album is in the same subtly colourful, impeccably textured, and easily digested vein, though the pulse never quickens more than it does on 'Airglow Fires'. It's a fine and enjoyable listen, and it's certainly Lone's most consistent album to date, but at times it can't help but feel slight. It's difficult not to yearn for a dash of the good taste offending exuberance of Lone's past heights.