LiL JaBBA is formerly from Australia and these days jumps between Baltimore and Brooklyn. He is also affiliated with Chicago’s Teklife crew, whose key members include DJ Spinn and DJ Rashad.
Scales is a really heady footwork album that digs into your brain, and sounds unlike any juke I’ve yet to hear. It goes beyond the cliches of the genre and goes deep, but a different deep to Om Unit’s deep in creating depth that doesn’t proclaim overtly “I am a deep track.”
Scales is a mix of opposing elements. The percussive elements are fast, but the background melody is slow. The background melody becomes the foreground melody, and then some other element that seemed like a non-factor becomes the forefront for the bridge. Melodies and rhythms form, seem solid, then decay. You hear a beautiful series of sounds and then it twists and becomes something discordant and dark.You hear moments of perfect synchronicity, and then the track becomes a trainwreck, but a perfectly calculated one.
In ‘Caverns’, you get a sense of claustrophobia and space at the same time from the discordant mix of organ, arpeggio synth and rolling tribal percussion. It has a sense of forward motion but is off-kilter and seems to be going nowhere.
‘Raiders’ is buzzing and insidious, and seems more a standard sort of dance-battle track as par footwork-style, but only if you were on acid. Stand-out track ‘Loki’ takes juke to outer spatial realms, layering hyper-dimensional sounds and synths and disconcerting higher synths, before rounding off to a trumpeting bridge anthem that is defiant in its messiness.
Tracks like ‘Echinacea’ and ‘Tomorrow’ contains moments of light and solidarity with anthropomorphic vocals, but even these are streamed and garbled into mere impressions of sound, and the tribal juke drums provides the only path through a spacious labyrinth of murky noises.
Even tracks like ‘Station North’ that seem like they’re going nowhere surprise when an underlying element is thrust to the forefront. This unpredictability encourages the listener to be patient in listening, so each track delivers pay-dirt.
All in all, Scales is a horrifyingly wonderful masterpiece that is almost entirely original, a large feat in these times of media saturation.