Speeka - BonfireWah Wah 45s
Matt Smooth and Rob Mac are back with their second album under the alias Speeka and it makes me wonder how they have time with all the other projects they've got under their belt. With the guys known more for their hip-hop roots than their jazz or funk, they take all those influences and turn them into a wonderful folk style album. This is a beautiful album that will have you wanting more after each play. My copy arrived in the middle of the postal strike, so I was able to give this album the attention it deserves. One of the catchiest tracks I've heard this year is "Better Inside", which has all the elements of a hit, if only the nation wasn't so obsessed with reality TV music shows. With a good balance of instrumentals and vocal productions, this will more than keep you happy through the dark winter months. Yet another excellent release from Wah Wah 45s.
Simon Harrison, 01/08
Spirit Catcher - Night Vision2020 Vision Recordings
After several 12" releases under their belt the Belgian duo, Jean Vanesse and Thomas Sohet, aka Spirit Catcher deliver their debut album for the Leeds based 2020 Vision Recordings. It's packed full of quality electro-boogie house and includes both 'Sweet Deal' and 'Time Emulator' from the recent single. To these ears though the standouts are the mid-tempo grooves 'Space Crash' and 'Motown Spring', the latter featuring a rock steady bass line, atmospheric keys and dreamy filtered harmonies. Trust me this is the bomb!
Andy Allen, 02/07
Spoonface - Living On The Venus ExpressFaada
Spoonface’s velvet tonsils have graced numerous productions over the past few years from house and broken-beat to R&B. His debut album follows a slightly different path though, focusing largely on acoustic folk orientated material. Of which ‘We Don’t Need To’, with its’ Spanish guitar flurries works particularly well but also check the mellow digital soul cut ‘It’s All Love’.
Andy Allen, 03/08
St Germain - St GermainNonesuch
Fifteen years is a long gap between album releases, especially when your previous LP is the critically acclaimed "Tourist". For DJ/Producer Ludovic Navarre better known as St Germain it was necessary to go in another direction As a result he embarked on an inspirational path that led him to the rhythms of West Africa and the blues. This creative journey has culminated into an extraordinary collaboration with Malian guitarist Guimba Kouyate. The new self-titled LP showcases Navarre's superb use of loops and sampling in conjunction with strong musicianship from Kouyate and others. "Real Blues" is a myriad of rhythms ranging from the wooden vibe like Balafon to Kouyate's electric guitar riffs. Not to mention the sampling of Lightnin' Hopkins. "Sittin Here" is bursting with infectious percussion and Kouyate's soloing and vocals. "How Dare You"once again features Kouyate's vocals alongside the sampled vocals of Lightnin' Hopkins. This union of the Blues and the music of Mali feels like a perfect marriage. In addition Navarre's superb use of electronics complements the compositions as opposed to overpowering it. Make no mistake, this is a tremendous achievement.
Reg Dancy, 02/16
Stee Downes - All In A DaySonar Kollektiv
Dublin born Stee Downes debut “All In A Day” is an amalgamation of harmonious 60’s pop, soul and funk. After ten years as a dj and performing live shows with the likes of Amp Fiddler and Bugz In The Attic, Stee hooked up with friend and musical confidant Ishfaq to work on his record. The result is a laidback feel good record that is warm and melodic. Highlights include “Asunder”, a mid tempo tune with simple lyrics to sing along to (“You could fill my dreams with Asunder”). “What’s Wrong with Groovin’” employs the same format with the exception of the samba like breaks filled with cool percussion work and strings. “What I’m Feeling” might be my favorite, a gorgeous bossa nova beat with slick guitar licks and funky horns. Stee Downes may not be known to most but “All In A Day” will make everyone get familiar with him. His voice isn’t overpowering but he doesn’t try to do what he can’t do. What he can do is create quality music with warm harmonic arrangements. This is an impressive debut by Stee Downes and is certainly worth checking out.
Reg Dancy, 10/08
Stephanie McKay - Tell It Like It IsMuthas of Invention
Finally! We’ve been waiting over a year since the original release date but the sophomore project by Stephanie McKay is here. “Tell It Like It Is” is gritty no holds barred soul with a 70’s vibe. Not to mention the passion and intensity that we heard on her debut “McKay” in 2003. The disc starts with the title track in which she laments on the problems that surrounds her community in particular and in the world in general. She advises a young girl to avoid some of the mistakes she made at her age. The wah wah guitar is a perfect compliment to this funky track. “Jackson Avenue” is the perfect summertime jam.. It evokes images of kids playing in the street and relying on the fire hydrants sprouting cool water for relief from the heat. The compostion has a classic Holland-Dozier-Holland sound and would’ve fit in perfectly in the Motown catalogue sans the Eric B & Rakim samples that add spice to the track. “Where Did Our Love Go” is a sweet ballad that features soul crooner Anthony Hamilton. With just twelve tracks, this disc sticks to the strong material and lays off the filler. One year after the EP of the same name, Stephanie McKay delivers with a disc full of soulful tasty treats that touches on social issues and everyday life experiences. This certainly emerges as one of best records of 2008 and an much needed voice to breathe life into soul music.
Reg Dancy, 08/08
Steve Austin - The Cyborg ChroniclesUprock Recordings
Uprock Recordings started back in 2000 with the merging of some serious heads. One of the seven original members is Steve Austin and here is his latest album. He has worked with some of the big names in hip hop, the broken beat scene, and is a regular MC and DJ at CO-OP, which has certainly given him a wealth of knowledge and experience. Steve has gone back to his roots and turned out an album which displays UK hiphop at its best. Even though there are some obvious samples used, especially in 'Rapper Have No Style', they are worked to perfection with Steve's lyrics, timing and production. Fans of Roots Manuva and TY need this.
Simon Harrison, 03/06
Steve Reid Ensemble - DaxaarDomino Recording
Steve Reid has some track record, his recording debut at 19 was playing on Martha and the Vandellas' 'Dancing in the Streetâ€. From there he played with a range of top jazz and soul legends including Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra James Brown and Dionne Warwick. This new CD sees him on his first visit to Africa for 40 years and once again working with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet). Recorded in Senegal the guests are Khadim Badji (percussion) Dambel Diop ( bass) Roger Ongolo ( trumpet) Jimi Mbaye ( guitar) and Boris Netsvetaev (keyboards). The opening track 'Welcome' is probably my favourite and sees the band joined by Isa Kouyate on kora and vocal . Well worth checking out.
Graham Radley, 09/07
Steve Reid Ensemble - Spirit WalkSoul Jazz
Drummer Steve Reid's musical career stretches back to the 60s. Not only has he played with such greats as Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Miles Davis and Gary Bartz to name but a few, but recorded a handful of much sought after deep jazz albums under his own name for his Mustevic label. 'Spirit Walk' is a welcome return for Steve and sees him team up with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), who respectfully brings electronic elements to the mix. The renowned 'Lions Of Judah' is revisited but my advise is to touch down on 'Lugano' and 'For Coltrane' for some truly exceptional timeless music.
Andy Allen, 11/05
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