HEAVENLY SWEETNESS RECORDS 29th July 2016
The opening fanfare lets me know this is an album, not a collection. Something to take in, like a live set; not to be stripped to a playlist. If you added some humanist politics and grand sentiments, this would stand next to Michael Franti and Spearhead – some inspiring lyrics and a big easy groove. Most years, there’s a dance / soul album that can be relied on to set the mood and this might, belatedly, be this year’s winner.
Take Me back raps up to a smooth groove and throws the line “the last four letters in African” at us, before a lonely horn hints at jazz. All Or Nothing chats nicely and smoothly again. It’s a warm sound, one to chill to on a summer night, big on the steady slow drop-beats. Dirty Otter is sadly lacking in vocals, leaving me to imagine lyrics that might fit. The smooth groove goes on with vintage keyboard sounds and the odd squelch. Give You Up travels back to the eighties for addictive funk that Kool & The Gang or Earth Wind & Fire might have recognised. By this time, you may well be wiggling and gently moving on your sofa. The track funks on for a glorious seven minutes, dropping classic Stevie Wonder sounds and Herbie Hancock vocoder effects. Rest Of My Life gets sweet and choral with slightly Chinese chime / harp sounds. A classically soulful, slightly constricted female vocal (think Macy Gray) leads us through the melody and Peaceful Life, the next track, has the same voice. Throughout, an organic rolling bass caresses and rubs into movement.
Incomplete gets all deep and mysterious. Nowhere continues the theme of subordinating the vocals to dreamy musical interplay, offering chorus elements and lots of semi-jamming deep soul/dance interplay. Kiss My Converse brings us back to the street. Epic Poses gets all, um epic. Every Generation feels like a closer in a warm, jazzy and inspiring way, blowing nicely on some sax and other horns but thankfully isn’t, as Desintoxication sees a keyboard and Blue Note-style breakbeat instrumental work the head nodding muscles before the real closer; Dance, Love & Die. This is a stand-out, funking and with chanting chorus and whirling female voices – this would make the dead move. The silence as the album ends is the only down moment of the album – one fixed by pressing ‘play’ again.
The set is the work of a producer who rejoices in the name of Guts and decided to assemble a live band. He’s French and the genre mixing / boundary crossing would back that up. He’s worked around, has lived in Ibiza for the last half-decade and has collaborated with legendary New York genius / nutter, Cody ChesnuTT. Clearly he has learnt the value of real, live musicians in making music with soul and this whole album hangs together so well that it deserves to soundtrack your summer. Busy touring Europe, there is the odd British summer festival in the offing but sadly no headline tour. We can hope……
In the meantime, there is this chilled and consummate set.