With electronic music, particularly of the brand that Becoming Real has put forth with each of his singles, and now with this debut LP, music critics can be a bit lazy in the language they choose to apply to the compositions. It wouldn't be unfair to level a "dreamy" feel at early singles like 'Fast Motion'. Despite its fast paced jukey feel its synth lines still recall an atmospheric haze typical of the electronic acts often branded with the term. Similarly "decay" is a word that could easily be bandied about in reference to tracks like 'South London Congo', which again, despite its dancier tones still exhibits the slowly evolving nature typical of music applied with that term. It's funny then, that Toby Ridler has beat us to the punch with the title of this LP, Solar Dreams / Neon Decay, and if the album didn't represent a stylistic departure for Ridler then it might not have been easy to avoid dropping those terms anyway.

From the opening moments of lead single 'Snow Drift Love' it was clear that this effort would be both clearer and more insistent than any of Ridler's previous works. Relying on several pitched vocal samples (or rather syllable tracks as we don't get any full words out of our singer) and some plinky keyboard lines as well as Ridler's characteristic uptempo drumbeats, the track soars in a way that previous singles never did. It's an appropriate summation of everything Ridler has worked toward in his short production career and its only the first four and a half minutes on the album.

The rest of the album, short as it may be functions similarly. The closer it maintains 'Snow Drift Loves' formula of spacey keyboards and monosyllabic vocal samples, the more successful the album is. 'Lady Lazarus' takes the vocal samples to heart, using them as the backbone of the song in a way not entirely dissimilar to the way Nick Zammuto did on his album earlier this year. Where the difference lies, and why you won't ever see Becoming Real mentioned in the same conversations as Zammuto is that 'Lady Lazarus', despite its similar construction, is decidedly more club minded than any of the works from the Books founder. Any doubts of a club focus are belayed by the two features on this album. On 'Work Me', Ridler brings in notable grime vocalist Lady Chann to confusing effect. To this point, Solar Dreams / Neon Decay seemed the sort of record, that while club minded was still the sort of isolationist electronic music that I hold so close to my heart. I can't fault Ridler for his artistic vision not lining up exactly with my preferences, but one has to question placing a song so boisterous amidst others that are so understated. It's not that such a rager isn't appreciated, but 'Work Me' is absolutely huge and it comes out of nowhere. It's of similar effect to placing a metal song in the midst of an acoustic rock album. It's not that the metal song wouldn't be "good" per se, you just have to question the context that its presented in.

Fortunately, the rest of the record, even the other feature, maintains the mood (if not, the instrumental formula of the earlier tracks). 'Crystal Epidemic' and 'Untitled function as a happy medium between the banger of 'Work Me' and the rest of the tracks, 'Anthropology' and the Sunless 97 featuring 'Slow Memory' maintain the understated feel of the earlier tracks on the record. It's an outstanding overall effort from a producer who's long overdue for a full length record. It's very obvious that Ridler is working to distill a wide variety of influences and interests into a cohesive product, but one can't help but wonder if this work would have been even more successful had he excised the grimier tracks like 'Work Me.' All things considered, it's a solid work and one that indicates even brighter things to come for this south-London based producer.