It’s dark o’clock again. Yup, Bristol duo Sober & Dribbla are back with their very own ‘love album’ and you get a sense that with a name like The Butcher’s Ball it’s going to be more about meat-hooks than mooning looks. Their second full-length drop in as many years, this time around there’s a bit more dub in their step and a bit more step in the dub of their mutant hip-hop sound. Not that they’ve actually gone completely dubstep you understand – this is still hip-hop – even if it’s soul is blacker than a lightless club full of hooded yout’ getting down to sub-bass b-lines and shuffling beats. For the uninitiated, producer Sober doesn’t spend hours diggin’ the crates for old jazz cuts – partly because neither of the duo want to recreate a sound which has had it’s depths soundly plumbed over the years, partly because it wouldn’t suit Dribbla’s bulldog delivery. And also possibly because Sober’s a lazy bastard.
Talking of bastards Dribbla normally spits like one and The Butcher’s Ball is no exception on this score – every track marked by his aggressive, staccato delivery – so I guess it’s only fair that the first track is titled Swallow. Beats-wise it comes over like two gigantic industrial robots having a pit fight and the message is typically ambivalent – is this the narrative of some nutter with a gun and a penchant for picking off those who surround him or a motivational and metaphorical call to arms? “Aim for your head/ BANG/ Aim for your hope/ BANG/ Aim for your faith/ BANG,” and so on and so forth.
Also, having said that they don’t use jazz samples, this is the first time the pair have dropped a release that uses a sample of any kind that I can remember, albeit a vocal one. “What’s your message? What are you trying to get across in the lyrics to these songs?..Why the bizarre get up? I mean why the eye? Why the nail polish…You’re a minister in the church of Satan right?” asks the Yank at the start of Age Of Inocence presumably interrogating Marilyn Manson as Dribbla, drops in with, “Another night drags into death/ The fuse is lit I’m a bomb threat to regress”. No redemption there then you might think – on with the bleakness. But that’s the thing about S & D – taking the negativity too seriously – would be to miss the point and the often apparently violent lyrics warrant a closer listen. Thus Dribbla revels in lyrics that prompt an aural double-take – of the ‘Did he really just fucking say that?’ kind. Metaphors that initially make him sound like some sort of physically violent deviant reveal something entirely un-physical – though not necessarily any less disturbing, “I thrust my image inside her for it to grow and make her hate me/ I thrust my better self straight through her, hope some of it might catch.” Or in the throbbing menace of Pitbull with its chorus of, “Night time creeps/ Withered hands push/ Deep into its hips. It’s over the top of course but these two aren’t really nasty boys and ultimately, Sober’s crashing breaks and Dribbla’s snarling raps don’t quite hide the fact that they’re protecting a sensitive core.
You also have to wait until nearly the end for the best groove in the shape of Heart Here With Me, admittedly another angsty grand guignol tale of emotional torture but with the best synth hook. Finally, title track, The Butcher’s Ball rounds things off – although I have to admit that I was feeling somewhat drained by this point because like all Sober & Dribbla releases, this one requires something from the audience. You have been warned.