Scuba emerges from his most difficult year to date with new album, ‘Claustrophobia’
Paul Rose is one of the more sardonic figures in dance music, but then again, he has a right to be. Under the guise of Scuba, Rose has served as one of the foremost figures of the underground for nearly ten years. He’s also responsible for one of the UK’s most beloved imprints, Hotflush Recordings, where he’s steered countless genre-defying singles from the likes of Paul Woolford, Recondite, Dense & Pika and more.
Last week, Rose unveiled his fourth artist album, Claustrophobia. The LP follows what was possibly Scuba’s most challenging personal year to date: “2014 was a very difficult year for me for a lot of reasons,” he says. “I had serious health problems; the effect of nearly 5 years of constant touring was beginning to catch up with me mentally.”
In July of 2014, Rose was forced to cancel his upcoming tour dates, citing ongoing medical issues. In some ways, it served as a wake up call: “I felt at a stage where I needed fundamental change both in the way I was living my life and the music I was making,” he said. As a result, he began working on Claustrophobia.
With the album taking shape, Rose experienced a creative turning point with the arrival of Labyrinth: Japan’s annual techno and ambient festival.
“I was in the middle of making the album when I made the trip to Asia for Labyrinth and it was in a period where I’d cancelled a lot of shows due to health problems but Labyrinth was one I really had to go to even though I wasn’t in any state to do any partying or anything like that. I spent the whole weekend completely sober but had a very inspiring time creatively and came back to the studio very refreshed. I think you can hear that in the album.”
As a result of his experiences, Rose has created some of his most interesting Scuba material to date. While the track titles are a bit dark in nature, (ex: “All I Think About Is Death,” “Needle Phobia”), the album itself is not outrightly negative, but rather an exploration of cinematic soundscapes and introspective musings.
Scuba may be most comfortable crafting bangin’ 4×4 techno records, but Claustrophobia is chock-full of downtempo, ambient, and intelligently programmed electronica. From murky album opener “Levitation” to extraterrestrial-leaning “Drift,” Rose’s work is akin to an inquisitive scientist crafting sonic experiments. His investigation of organic textures is not unprecedented, however. Last year saw Rose conduct a 3-part Phenix series, which, in many ways, paved the way for this album.
“The Phenix series was a way for me to feel out what kind of thing I wanted to do with the next album after being intentionally provocative and not entirely serious in the period between the Adrenalin EP and the Hardbody single. Having been quite pop-oriented I wanted to do something very different and experimenting with noise, atmospheres and textures was something that interested me.”
The direction is evident throughout the entire work. Even on more 4×4-oriented tracks like “Why You Feel So Low” and “Black on Black,” Scuba establishes a lively environment of crackling noises and percussive effects.
Claustrophobia culminates with “Transience,” what is likely the most engrossing bit of the entire album. With nary a kick or snare drum in sight, it presents a beautiful soundscape fit for late-night star gazing or the soundtrack to a Ridley Scott film. All-in-all, Claustrophobia is compelling evidence of Paul Rose’s ability to reinvent himself and ultimately a true showcase of his inner artistry.