Toddla T: “Watch Me Dance – Agitated” – album review

Toddla T: Watch Me Dance – Agitated (Ninja Tune)
CD/DL/LP
Out 13th August

Almost a year ago Toddla T dropped his sophomore release, Watch Me Dance, on the legendary Ninja Tune label. A year later & it’s refit time with Toddla T reaching out to two legends of his home towns (Sheffield) underground music scene, Ross Orton and DJ Pipes to do the job. Louder Than War writer Rosie Craig was sent a pre-release copy & what follows is her review.

Toddla T is the man who made last years club and radio anthem ‘Take It Back’. He’s the guy that brought UK garage veteran Shola Ama out of the nineties and back into the limelight (those of you that don’t remember her classic tune ‘Imagine’ from back in the day check out the Youtube embed below). He’s the guy actually dating Annie Mac, as apposed to just chatting her up in the studio during interviews, and he’s got his own regular BBC Radio 1 slot. The man barely needs introduction but seeing as this is Louder Than War and electronic music isn’t the first thing you stumble across here it’s worth mentioning that Toddla T has blown up in a short space of time to become a highly respected member of the current popular electronic music scene.

“Watch Me Dance”, Toddla’s debut album found it’s way onto the internet earlier than intended which most probably affected sales; but it doesn’t seem to have affected Toddla T’s status. With a label like Ninja Tune behind you, its clear you’re someone who needs to be paid attention to.

His next release “Agitated” is a re-edit/mash-up/meltdown/complete reassessment of the seminal “Watch Me Dance” by two of Toddla T’s biggest influences in the Sheffield music scene: producers Ross Orton (M.I.A, Ladyhawke) and Pipes.

To quote the T himself – “DJ Pipes and Ross Orton are two of my biggest musical inspirations / heroes. This is a secret dream come true”

Anyone familiar with the original LP will know it was a grimy, hip-hop and house affair with lots of catchy hooks, bouncing bass lines and face-slapping vocals held together with top notch arrangements and tight production.

What makes “Agitated” so different is that it is a completely club-bound record. All the sounds are intended to bounce off sweaty brick walls into deeply transfixed clubbers ear drums and pound away for longer than a radio track would ever get away with.

Big debut single ‘Take It Back’ becomes a blippy, techno kick-drum banger with plenty of reverb, off-beat beeps and a creeping rhythmic head-nodding bass line that would be welcome in a dirty Berlin sound dungeon.

Title track ‘Watch Me Dance’ becomes ‘Watch Me Dub’; a snappy distorted snare replacing the live sounding one from the original. More electro driven, less crisp production. Less dance classic, more glitch, more rude. It’s robotic sounding with heaps of echo.

The rhythmic arpeggio synth beneath dancehall / garage crossover ‘Body Good’ has vibe and hook making it one of the rare ‘catchy’ tunes from the album.

New track ‘I’m Alive’ has been completely re-worked and re-named as well. ‘I’m Agitated’ keeps the recognisable Shola Ama chorus and verse over a wubbing garage bass and industrial monophonic pulses. On a side note, if you want to hear a really nostalgic version of this track look no further than garage god Sticky’s reworking (see above), it incorporates a bass line almost identical to the one from his old-skool track ‘Triplets’, beefing the track up so much you could almost be in the back of your mate’s Vauxhall Nova all over again.

All in all “Agitated” smashes it out of the ground as a remix album only really failing to have as much hook as Toddla T fans are used to. But for a hot and sweaty club basement – and one that you’re not likely to hear anything that’s been near a radio – this might be just what’s needed to bring the T sound underground.

Watch Me Dance – Agitated can be pre-ordered from Ninja Tune here. Toddla T is on Facebook here and tweets as @Toddlat.

All words by Rosie Craig. More Louder Than War features by Rosie can be found here.

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