Big Dada releases the late Ewan Robertson’s final work.
Indie labels are often tight-knit families of musical miscreants united through their love of a certain underground sentiment—and with the posthumous release of Ewan Robertson’s self-titled final set of work as Offshore, Big Dada stays true to this perception. In the album notes, the ever-eclectic label says that “the sadness felt by those who knew and loved Ewan is still very real, but this record is a chance to celebrate what a unique and talented individual he was.” As is often the case with indie labels, Robertson didn’t just contribute music production, but also design skills: In their obituary for Robertson, Big Dada partner label Ninja Tune called him “one of the greatest designers ever to work for Ninja Tune or Big Dada, responsible for iconic covers such as the Wiley“black playground” image for Playtime Is Over, the Roots Manuvaslime-head for Slime & Reason, and Bonobo‘s Black Sands triptych.”
Given that, not to mention the varied output of Big Dada itself, it’s no surprise that his last work as Offshore is vibrant and varied. Offshore’s lead-off track, “J Bouncey,” harkens back to some of Coldcut’s later, more refined work, while “Church Rhythm” kicks off with what could be a Violent Femmes guitar riff. “Olympian” combines synth-pop sensibilities with syncopated shakers to create what can only be described as post-modern 8-bit. Then, you’re hit with the half-punk-rock/half-Brit-pop, sort-of-Minor-Threat-on-ketamine feel of “Ruin”—and you realize that the album’s main cohesion is just how singular each track truly is.
Once you reach the melancholy toms and staccato rhythm of the title track, which serves as the album’s coda, you truly get a sense of the wistful yearning that all of those who put time in into finishing off and arranging this album must feel for the friend who departed all too early, at the young age of 27. That it took three years after his passing to release this is a testament to the care and tenderness with which this release was treated. It’s absolutely fitting of the Big Dada aesthetic, and a dynamic final expression by the late Ewan Robertson. In a nice touch, proceeds from the album will go to the Marfan Trust—Robertson passed away while undergoing heart surgery for treatment of Marfan Syndrome. Another nice touch: A bounty of remixes, from Amon Tobin, Ikonika, Lockah, Slugabed and others, are available digitally with the CD and LP version, and a separate digital-only remix release will be available on all digital platforms.