A 12 track beats & breaks album (39m 34s) — released August 7th 2020 on Central Processing Unit

We're accustomed to hearing releases from Central Processing Unit which veritably fly out the traps. Indeed, you could spend hours listing all the great uptempo club tracks that have dropped via the Sheffield label down the years, rambunctious rollers from artists like DMX Krew and 96 Back. However, there is another side to the CPU sound, one that is slower, more considered and owes plenty to downtempo and 90s electronica.

Paul Blackford is a producer who has long embodied these two facets of CPU's output. On one hand you have his 2014 label debut The League Of Shadows, a set of fizzing IDM-techno innovations which remains highly sought-after to this day; on the other there is Light Years, the cool and collected return to CPU that Blackford made three years later. The latter record, with its painterly synth work and neck-snapping drums, remains a touchstone for Blackford's latest CPU release, a new twelve-track LP entitled Betamax.

While the tempos of Betamax may be rather relaxed, the sonic palette used here very much links up with CPU's other drops. It is one forged in the forward-thinking electronic styles of the 1990s - Drexciyan electro, Boards Of Canada's wistful electronica and the boundary-pushing IDM of Rephlex Records. Mind you, this is also one of the first CPU drops to draw a little from another side of the traxx - though Betamax may not be as schooled in plunderphonics as DJ Food or Nightmares On Wax, there is something in the lilt of these beats which obliquely doffs its cap to those old breaks.

Betamax proves yet again that Blackford is adept at experimenting and incorporating new influences across the course of a record without disrupting its vibe. As well as standing adjacent to the machine-funk sound that has long been a cornerstone of electro, Light Years was an LP in which subtle nods to G-Funk and P-Funk could be discerned in the rhythmic programming. These influences are felt once more on Betamax cuts such as 'Far From Home' and 'Fortress' - the former comes off like an after-hours take on Space Dimension Controller, or maybe even Daft Punk's 'Something About Us'. Meanwhile a space-age, slightly alien quality enters the production in the album's final third, something signposted by aptly-titled highlight 'The Nasa Beat'.

While Paul Blackford's Betamax may switch the pace up for Central Processing Unit, the album's richly-harmonious electro-hop sound proves a fine foil to the label's more high-octane releases.

RIYL: Boards Of Canada, Bochum Welt, Luke Vibert, Steven Rutter, Space Dimension Controller

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