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Joy Orbison
Still Slipping Vol. 1 Liam Inscoe-Jones , August 16th, 2021 08:50

Joy Orbison's first long-player feels like a super hero's origin story, finds Liam Inscoe-Jones

What does it mean to release a mixtape? If you asked that question to a hip hop head in 2007 then the answer would be simple: it's where the good shit is. In the age of streaming though, when every album is released the same way mixtapes used to be, then the answer is quite different. It's become a kind of warning: don't get excited, this is not a real album. London DJ-producer Joy Orbison tries to answer that question on his own first mixtape, with a vocal snippet from a friend: "The second you just change the language to mixtape," she says, "nobody cares."

But Peter O'Grady, to use his real name, is being coy. Yes, he clearly revels in the same ramshackle energy of this year's other ode to mixtapes, Tyler the Creator's Call Me If You Get Lost, but the label is applied to say something different here, I think. To diehard UK clubgoers, a full-length project is something people didn't necessarily expect or need to hear from Joy Orbison. This is the man behind 'Ellipsis', 'GR Etiquette' and 'Hyph Mngo', for god's sake. By ignoring all rules and blending UK garage, UK funky, house and dubstep, his impact upon dancefloors is already written. No, with still slipping vol. 1, O'Grady is letting us know: this is something new.

New it very much is, too – not just for Joy Orbison but, to these ears, for mainstream dance music at large. From the new wave of headline acts like Bicep, Peggy Gou, and Chicago's Jlin to the heady mysticism of Four Tet and Jon Hopkins, wordless electronic music can be many things, but domestic and familial are words you'd never use to describe any of it. Those are what spring to mind on still slipping vol. 1 though, a "mixtape" which tries to bring things crashing firmly back to earth. The cover is a gorgeous portrait of his cousin Leighann, who O'Grady credits with introducing him to jungle at an early age, and all of the songs are surrounded by soundbites of his family and friends, so we can hear his sister talking about Pina Coladas, and his Dad chiming in on Mod culture.

Their voices contextualise a set of tracks which almost doubles the length of O'Grady's ten-year output in a single sitting. The music flies by though; as meticulous as the style which made him an icon, but with less of the intensity. It was produced entirely during COVID-19 lockdowns when O'Grady communicated with his family only via FaceTime. Some of that digital glitchiness is captured on cuts like 'glorious amateurs', but more than anything there's the sense of O'Grady as a teenager, flicking through his collection of 7-inches in his bedroom, walking us through a gallery of his influences.

still slipping vol. 1 bounces effortlessly from one style to another, from the intricate 2-step of 'swag w/ kav' to the melancholic house of 'better'. There's a nod to '80s post-punk on 'playground', and gloriously throaty verses from James Massiah and Goya Gumbani on 'swag' and 'playground' respectively. Rather than a bold new direction, the mixtape feels like a peek behind the curtain, turning the dancefloor monolith into somebody we can all relate to, with Mum calling up to be sweet about something she doesn't quite understand. "Yeah, yeah. there's something in it that you can latch onto," she says about his new single. "It's got, well… it's not a melody… but it's got something you can almost hum to. No, no, I really liked it."