New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
Recent first-class Hyperdub releases by Cooly G and Terror Danjah have put the kibosh on all those crowbarred-in metaphors about industrial wastelands and night-bus riddims beloved of critics. ‘Pretty Ugly’ is another spear into cliché. It’s a sunnier, livelier, more psychedelic and lascivious territory that Leon Smart inhabits here, as he edges further from a grime past that saw him producing a track on Wiley’s ‘Playtime Is Over’ and settles into abstract, Kwaito-infused, synth-washed funky house.There’s occasional crimes of flannel-wet schmaltz but mostly Smart is like an esoteric, London-based Dam-Funk with a fondness for chemically enhanced raving.[i]Chris Parkin[/i] .
Hyperdub's resident court jester and former Rinse FM breakfast show host Scratcha DVA has always been a little bit silly, and Pretty Ugly is an apt name for his debut album. Leon Smart's music has often been a contradiction. He could go from the nastiest grime ("Bullet A Go Fly") to soulful UK Funky, his tracks steeped in the paradoxical complexity of urban life.
You couldn't accuse Leon "Scratcha DVA" Smart of not making his case plain. From the title inward, Pretty Ugly, Smart's debut album for Hyperdub, wears its polemical heart on its sleeve, offering a manifesto for an approach to dance music that looks askew, glances awry, and always moves out of kilter. This approach was present in Smart's earlier work in the UK funky field, already a sub-genre that self-defines by how much it can subvert the rhythmic template of house.
An exhilarating debut album from Leon Smart’s DVA alias, full of complexity. Ian Roullier 2012 Having played a major part in London’s scene-shaping Rinse FM and produced his own unique takes on both grime and UK funky, Leon Smart has now put together his debut album under his DVA alias. Pretty Ugly takes influences from hip hop, soul, funk, dub, techno and pop; but when viewed through DVA’s aural kaleidoscope and dusted in interference, glitches and dirt, these elements take on a different appearance altogether.
As befits a former host of Rinse FM's Grimey Breakfast Show and veteran producer of music rooted in grime, Leon 'Scratcha DVA' Smart's public persona has always toed the line between wild energy and tight control. His interviews often find him operating in rapid fire mode, peppering his points with examples and keeping conversation comfortably moving of his own volition. The same is true of his music which, in a world of identikit broken house and soft-synth dubstep, carries that rare trait of actually reflecting the personality of its maker.
London, UK DJ/producer DVA has been on the music scene for some time, most notably as a radio personality on Rinse FM, though latest release Pretty Ugly marks his first go at a full-length. Trying to pin a label on an artist like DVA, or an album such as Pretty Ugly, is a useless endeavour; the Hyperdub resident dabbles in funk, grime, experimental, R&B and soul, a mélange of styles that effortlessly coexist. The album's decidedly upbeat atmosphere dodges any pattern or semblance, freely moving from the warbled stutter, full vocal onslaught of "Just Vybe," with its echoed fades and steady ride cymbal, to a singular synth build that loops hypnotically on following track "Polyphonic Dreams.