Steve Spacek - Natural Sci-FiEglo
Steve Spacek explores mellow cosmic funk with his second official solo release "Natural Sci Fi". The initial stages of production for this lp began in 2005 but it was put on hold while he worked on various projects. Since then Spacek has added a few wrinkles, notably the appearance of rapper Oddisee and vocalist Natalie Slade. Oddisee's effortless flow fits seamlessly on "Take Ova" while the title track is long spacious laid back funk. It's a bit disappointing there's only eight tracks but at least it ends on a high note. "Plain Site" is a dreamy tune where Slade's soulful vocals mesh beautifully with Spacek's signature falsetto over a slinky funky groove. A solid release that will leave you wanting more but will satisfy you nonetheless.
Reg Dancy, 02/19
Steve Spacek - Space ShiftSound In Color
For those of you who have been in hiding for the last few years, Spacek have released two excellent albums 'Eve' and 'Vintage Hi-Tech'. Back when 'Eve' was released they upset the applecart by mixing a fusion of Steve's unique yet stunning vocals and beats that will shake your house. In 2005 it's time for Steve, the voice behind Spacek to go solo. There has been a lot of hype about the single 'Dollar' and quite rightly so: It was produced by the beatmaster J. Dilla. 'Spacek Shift' continues in that formula as did the previous albums and still sounds as fresh as ever. This is soul music for the twenty first century and beyond.
Simon Harrison, 10/05
Strange Fruit Project - The HealingOM Hip Hop
The first thing that stands out in the tracklistings for this album is that "Get Live" features Erykah Badu. It's as good as you would expect and the perfect selling point for those who reside behind record counters. The Strange Fruit Project have been missed in the past and judging by both their previous albums there's just no explanation. They've stuck to their guns and kept their effective sample-based beats and basslines. There is only one slight difference to their previous long players in that they have brought in a few guests: these include Little Brother, Bavu Blakes, Darien Brockington, DeLoach and of course the lady of soul mentioned above. I really hope this gets them the attention they thoroughly deserve, but only time will tell.
Simon Harrison, 07/06
Submotion Orchestra - KitesSMO
With their fifth LP, The Submotion Orchestra return to their roots with jazz infused electronica combined with live instrumentation. "Kites" maintains the atmospheric soundscapes that we fell in love with from their debut "Finest Hour". Each member drew inspiration from photographic images they brought to the recording. They transformed those images into a splendid collection of emotive compositions. "Variations" is a elegant slow burning tune with blissful keys and hypnotic beats. "Own" is another winner filled with warm strings and blissful horns. Ruby Woods angelic vocals, missing for most of their previous lp shines throughout here. The disc wraps up with "Alone", a haunting orchestral gem where Woods weaves images of space and open skies around her soft vocals. This is a gorgeous release that is simply sublime. Loyal fans will be more than pleased while new fans will realize what they've been missing.
Reg Dancy, 03/18
Sugar Beats - Search for PeaceCalm Beast Records
Back in 2004 Steve Williams from UKvibe gave me a copy of a four track cd from a new Birmingham band called the Sugar Beats. This featured a cracking version of Stevie Wonder's "As", a live version of the "Balcon Hotstep" and the excellent "French Girl from Luton". I've been hooked ever since. The Sugar Beats were formed by Chris Mapp and Leo Altarelli, and then became a seven piece band for "Search for Peace". The foundation here is jazz, which not only works on dancefloors but also when pottering around the house. Leo's vocal works a treat whether scatting or in a full vocal workout. Top marks to these guys for persisting and getting their music out there, now all you've got to do is support!
Simon Harrison, 09/06
Sun Circle - RebornFuturistica Music
Simon S’s soulful electronic compositions and Deborah’s angelic vocals have given birth to many wonderful Futuristica recordings. With “Reborn” the duo has crafted a canvas filled with sublime down tempo music that will paint pictures of peace and serenity. Among the highlights are “If You Speak”, a jazz influenced soulful tune enhanced by a lovely melody and warm yet subtle keyboard arrangements. “My Story” is a lush arrangement that features Deborah supported by lush strings These compositions would sound great with anyone but when Deborah lays her vocals down, they turn to gold. Simon’s catalogue continues to grow with high quality music and is firmly established as one of the leaders of electronic soul filled with melodic jazzy soundscapes and this record is further proof of that.
Reg Dancy, 08/10
Super Smoky Soul - CyclingCirculations
I'm not sure if it was the sad loss of J Dilla aka Jay Dee (R.I.P) in 2006 that sparked a new interest in beats but over the last few months we've seen quality albums from the likes Flying Lotus, Dr. Who Dat aka Jnerio Jarel, Hudson Mohawke and many more, with of course re-issues and new releases of Dilla material. Super Smoky Soul take the gauntlet and produce twenty heavy weight beats, that have had many beat junkies drooling. I don't know much about these guys but once you get your ears around the likes of "After Smoke", "Every", "Simply", "Smile" or "Classius Clay", just to name a few, you'll be hooked. The vinyl sampler will be in limited quantites, so be warned.
Simon Harrison, 02/07
Swollen Members - Black MagicBattle Axe Records
Swollen Members return with their 5th studio album packed to the hilt with fat beats and smart rhymes, returning once again on Battle axe records.
This album flows along nicely and has some top notch guest appearances from the in form Ghostface Killah, DJ Swamp, DJ Babu and the dancehall master Mr Vegas.
Stand out tracks include 'Pressure', 'Grind' and the title track 'Black Magic'. The whole album is as expected, fully sample driven, but there is a heavy emphasis on piano's and guitar licks. Its production is executively taken care of by Mad Child and it's produced very tight. Fans of previous Swollen Members long players will no doubt dig this. It by no means delves into adventurous territory buts it's a solid album that should be checked!
Sy Smith - Fast and CuriousPsykol Records
Despite three impressive albums and two EPs to her credit Sy Smith has yet to receive the recognition that her body of work would suggest. Sy’s vocal talents have graced the recordings of esteemed artists like the Chaka Khan, Me’Shell N’degeocello and many more as well as a frequent contributor to the Foreign Exchange. All of her releases have been well received by her devoted fan base yet they haven’t taken off to the masses. That could very well change now with the infectious “Fast and Curious”. Mark De Clive Lowe takes hold of the production chores and provides Sy with a soulful dance sound that guarantees hip twisting and neck snapping movement. His wizardry behind the boards and on keys combined with Sy’s angelic vocals feels like the perfect marriage. The disc kicks off with the title track which is built on a mid-tempo groove and funky synths. From there the tempo builds with “Truth” but the formula of funky bass grooves and clever synth arrangements remains the same. Sy’s cover of two classic recordings is also impressive. On “Nights” (Feel like Getting Down) she’s joined by Rahsaan Patterson as they breathe life into the Billy Ocean dance hit. While on “Lovergirl” she woos her lover while flipping the Teena Marie dance track into a tender mid-tempo teaser. From start to finish this disc delivers and could easily ignite your next house party or simply quench your daily soul music thirst. Whatever the case be sure not to miss it.
Reg Dancy, 08/12