Rinse FM has long been one of London’s most essential underground stations, and as a former host of their Grimey Breakfast Show, Leon Smart knows the UK bass scene like the back of his hand. On the back of a string of well-received 12″s under the alias Scratcha DVA, he drops his first LP Pretty Ugly operating simply as DVA . A couple of these tracks, like the fantastic Just Vybe featuring vocals from Floating Points collaborator Fatima, have been bouncing around in various forms for a while now, but Pretty Ugly’s twelve tracks offer the most complete insight yet into Leon’s irreverent musical personality.
Pretty Ugly is heavy on the female vocals, underpinning them with all manner of stuttering half-step beats and spasmodic synth jams. DVA’s influences are laid out for all to see; UK funky by way of Bay Area hip-hop and a tackiness to the synths that reeks of grime circa 2003. His constructions are playful and mischievous, kaleidoscopic funk moods prone to veering unexpectedly. Sandwiched between vocal tracks are occasional instrumentals that bear stronger resemblance to his old material. Take dancefloor-primed Bare Fuzz for example, driven by a thudding dub bassline with rave aspirations while all manner of fragmented samples circle overhead. The title track is perhaps the best example of these two ideas fusing, Cornelia’s doe-eyed vocals belying the staggered, abrasive rhythm that is the track’s foundation.