Monday, December 28, 2009

10 years of TruThoughts records (limited 3cd edition, 2009)

Brighton's Thu Thoughts is easily one of the UK's best independent labels, regardless of whether its audience is energetically twitching on the dancefloor or bobbing about in a chilled boudoir. Variegation is a natural force, as the roster effortlessly embraces funk, hip hop, soul, ambient, electro, jazz, drun'n'bass, Latin, reggae and Afrobeat, sometimes favouring the full flow of the songwriter’s craft, and at other times stripping down to a minimalist beat-hardness, designed for maximum DJ spinnage.

This lavish three-disc set arrives in the form of a hardback booklet, detailing the label's history so far. The first two discs select highlights from the existing catalogue, whilst the third unveils a host of new music, whether hot off the laptop or dug up from old sessions. The cuts were apparently chosen in typically democratic fashion, with much canvassing of the extended Tru Thoughts posse.

The majority of tracks are perhaps understandably culled from the last five years or so, but the presence of Bonobo harks back to the first Tru Thoughts album release in 2000, which was already successful enough to make founders Robert Luis and Paul Jonas consider the reality of a professional record company future. Disc one has the courage to open with a restful flotation, slinking from Bonobo to the bewitching Nostalgia 77, with singer Alice Russell livening up by track three, yet still keeping things slinkily soulful.

Disc two points out the Tru Thoughts predilection for a new form of soul authenticity, as The Quantic Soul Orchestra start to impersonate digital means with a full live band. A snagging guitar figure dominates their Super 8, with whiplash funky drumming and a flooding bass sound as bonuses. The label's latest batch of soul swivellers are represented by Belleruche, with yet more pinpricking guitar, along with Kathrin DeBoer's distinctive vocals, on Northern Girls. It's an updating of vintage production values that typifies the Tru Thoughts ethos.

The set's third disc of unfamiliar material is mainly instrumental, but most of its peaks happen to feature vocals. Domu's We Can makes a beguiling skip through a strong tune, Hint's Tape Packs gets ultra-robotic and Saravah Soul's Alforria splices into a strange new Brazilian-afrobeat hybrid. The label's best new signing Stonephace provide a fitting climax with their Singularity, featuring breathy flute, automated Flamenco handclaps and heavy Ennio Morricone-styled guitar.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Quasimode - Daybreak (2009)

Amazing sounds from Quasimode -- one of the hardest-hitting, piano-driven combos you could ever hope to find! The album's their first full set of original work for Blue Note Japan, and it may well be their best set so far for the label -- a really massive batch of music that features the core quartet really riffing away, with some added horns to really enrich their sound! There's a deeply spiritual undercurrent to the tracks, thanks to the presence of heavy conga on most numbers, and bold use of classic modal jazz styles -- lots of 60s and 70s elements that lean heavy on the basslines, but also change things more into a Latin-modal approach, given even more focus on the congas here than before. Most tracks are instrumental, but two numbers feature vocals from China Moses, and one more from Wouter Hamel -- and as a special treat, Fabrizio Bosso also plays a bit of trumpet on the record.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

4HERO - Extensions (2009)

4hero present a compilation of original previously unreleased cover versions of their music, reinterpreted by a selection of hand picked artists. When presented with the idea of doing another remix album they felt a need to do something new and fresh, rather than calling up the usual remix suspects and getting dance floor club mixes 4hero have put together an album that would happily sit on the shelf of a 4hero fan. For this project they’ve sought out a range of forward thinking outts, orchestra’s & producers including some new discoveries to cover their music. 4hero played their part in the music supervision including some recording, mixing and co producing tracks on the album making the project that much more special to the 4hero fan base. The result is cinematic and dynamic in structure and styles. 4hero are well known for pioneering new electronic music genres including Jungle/D&B, Broken Beat and Nu Jazz. The “Extensions” recordings are the best way to define Nu Jazz.

Best Album of 2009: Build An Ark - Love pt. 1 (2009)

A perfect title for a perfect record -- especially given all the love we've felt from Build An Ark over the years! The album's a masterpiece through and through -- easily the greatest statement ever from this already-amazing band -- a contemporary ensemble, but one that we'd seamlessly rank right next to our righteous favorites on labels like Impulse Records, Tribe, or Strata East -- with all the political power and sense of social mission those references would imply! The song titles alone will give you a great idea of the beautiful vibe behind Build An Ark -- tunes like "Celebrate", "How Do We End All This Madness", "Love Is Everywhere", "World Peace Now", and "This Prayer For The Whole World" -- which re-ignite the Love Supreme candle first lit by John Coltrane in the 1960s -- burning brightly again in the 21st Century, and almost even more inspiring -- given the youthful energy of the group. As always, mainman Carlos Nino deserves a hell of a lot of credit for getting something this great, this right -- but the group is also very clearly a collective, and draws amazing energy from members who include Dwight Trible, Kamau Daaood, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Damon Aaron, Jim Lang, and others. In addition to above-mentioned titles, other tunes include "Sweet Thing", "World Music", "More Love", "In The Park", and "Play The Music".
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