We set off in party mode with the upbeat, 'Movin' On'. It's soulful with a disco vibe and Maros exhibits a decent singing style alongside self referential lyrics delivered confidently. 'Tolerant Minds' sobers up proceedings somewhat tackling prejudices relating to race and discrimination towards nerds. Bazuuka Joe guests on vocals as the pair draw from personal experiences.
'Reset' introduces a perky piano riff nicely reflecting the positive attitude promoted through the lyrics. Treat each day as a new start no matter what's happened in the past, always look forward. To this point the music has felt natural, relying on traditional instrumentation. 'Bizzaro' introduces heavy synth bass and programmed drums. Dorkin T. Wizzard, King Pheenix, and Dynamo Dash feature. Pheenix's vocal style in particular suits this style but there is quite a stark contrast between the opening three tracks and this less organic offering.
The bigger, synth sound continues with 'Still Here'. The chorus is simple with clever use of effects on the vocals combined with some basic but effective scratching making it catchy as hell. I expect the intensity to continue on 'Get Game' as Madhatter guests on vocals with NES-T and Klopfenpop featuring too. Yet I'm surprised by how smooth the track is, that's no bad thing. It's not that dynamic, but flows nicely.
'NXSE' features Anita De Freitas, presumably supplying the hook, which has more than a slight feel of early 90's pop about it and in itself isn't too bad. As the title track I'd expect a strong offering. Sadly, for me, it's the weakest track so far with uninspiring beats that are lost beneath cheesy sounding synth hits and vocals laden with reverb.
'Nerd Like Me' is instantly and infinitely more interesting. The music is subtle but sets a really nice tone. It's really well composed. I'm not a fan of auto-tune and I don't think Maros needs it on the catchy chorus. That said, it's not offensive or particularly prominent. Random and Epic-1 lend their talents on this laid back effort. There's an 8bit element to 'Digital Overboss' which, again, is fairly subtle. The music isn't in your face allowing the listener to soak in the lyrics and enjoy Maros' smooth flow.
'Sins' takes the tone way down telling the tale of a drunk father and the hatred manifesting within his children set to a dark track... Now, what the shitting hell just happened? From the sombre dark tale of abuse and hatred we're suddenly thrust into the brash, upbeat, silly, 'Make Some Babies'. The transition is abrasive and throws off the tone and flow of the entire album completely. I don't dislike the song as such, it's just so out of context at this point in the album that for me it's a grave error of judgement to butt it up against something so dark.
Banishing 'Make Some Babies' from my memory, 'Battle Royale' would have been the perfect song to follow 'Sins'. The track is accomplished with a full sound and utilises interesting foreign language samples. Masta Don Da Masta Don features. Vocals bounce nicely between the two emcees.
'Can't Stop Me' brings back the video game flavour. The track is competent,yet unremarkable, the vocal effect on the hook is well used the track lacks anything distinctly catchy.
Whiskey Hotel brings vocals to 'For The Lulz'. Musically subtle, vocally interesting, lyrically offensive to just about everyone but with tongues firmly placed in cheeks. More like this please, Maros.
I'll admit, eighteen tracks in and I'm a little frazzled. I've been a fan of Bazuuka Joe as a guest vocalist for some time now, he often raises the standard of a song and he lends his talents to 'Unfrozen'. The result is that it's fine... just fine. Not great, not bad, mediocre.
Three tracks from the album's conclusion and we're reunited with an old friend. N.I.N.T.E.N.D.O was the only Maros song I'd heard before the release of this album, in particular the Invader Remix that appears now on NXSE and I've loved it since the first time I heard it. It's been kicking around for years and really set the standard for what I've been expecting from Maros with this album.
'Shoop Da Woop' is another remix, this time by Dynamo Dash. Having never heard the source material I can't tell if it's an improvement. String hits and a beat form a sparse track, the samples feel thrown in rather being bedded into the track. It has a charm to it, there's just not much gong on.
The album finale comes in the form of a cover of The Flight of the Conchords' 'Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros' with the assistance of Starf.
NXSE has been a long time in the making and it shows. The album lacks a fluidity throughout, most likely because it's a collection of songs amassed over a period of time rather than as a singular project. There's a distinct difference in style between the more traditional instrumentation that make up the first three tracks and much of the remainder of the album. With twenty one tracks it's long, too. I feel that Maros could easily have halved that number, focussing on the the strongest efforts and taking care over the placement of each track so the album has a natural progression.
This release feels a lot like Maros wanted everyone to hear everything he's done where a far better album could have been just the best that he's created. And there's easily an album full of really strong songs in there. He's got some great guest vocalists on board. The remaining tracks would make a decent mixtape compilation with the remixes and quirkier efforts.
Sometimes less is more.
NXSE is available to download now for free via Scrub Club Records.