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Glow in the Dark-Into Existence

The Sonar Kollektiv label brings back Harry Miller via his nom de guerre for a second LP in a year. Over eight tracks, Mr Miller brings the feel of the summer of 2009 when Chillwave made its brief appearance. Largely symbolised as a dreamy, lo-fi variation of '80s R'n'B, Funk and New Wave, 'Into Existence' is a delightful '17 update. Highlights include 'Special One' which floats around a  repeated chorus. 'Arise' bumps along with more urgency in its drum programming: influenced by Dubstep. Harry's reverbing vocals turn into a busy though controlled keyboard and skipping hi-hat frenzy. In the face of these low-key moments, Glow in the Dark gets tougher on the vocoder-led 'Sultry Creatures' in the run up to soulful, melodic album favourite 'Hideaway'.  It is the ethereal, synthesised  'The Key' and closing title piece that concludes an optimistic collection to escape with. Out on 20th October.


The Souljazz Orchestra-Under Burning Skies

Returning to  Strut Records, the Ottawa-based SoulJazz Orchestra are back with their 8th long-player, just two years since the career-high of 'Resistance'. As the band head deeply into their second decade, 'Under Burning Skies' shows itself to be a new apex.  

Over the 10 tracks on offer, there is a willingness to venture out of their west-African-influenced past and into new territory. Along the way, there is the use of analogue drum machines (on the circa-1984 Electro Funk of 'Lufunki'), Instrumental 'Adawe Boogie' basks in the glory of the same era, making use of arpeggiated synths uas the horns take centre stage  'Holla, Holla' is in more trademark SJO territory: pacey call-and-response Afro-beat while 'Sorrow Fly Away' skips along in a similar vein: the mellifluous female vocal perhaps making this the peak of the collection.  Of all its elements, it is the impact of its horn-section that sets the Orchestra above its peers.In that respect, the harmony, melody and arrangements are nigh-on faultless throughout. As saxophonist Ray Murray says: "Souljazz is more than just a band for us, it's a way of life."

Zara McFarlane-Arise

After two widely-lauded albums, East Londoner Zara returns for her third outing on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings. It was through original compositions like 'Chiaroscuro' as well as a heavyweight cover of 'Police and Thieves' that warranted widespread recognition. Episode 3 involves, amongst contemporaries, drummer, cohort, Moses Boyd and clarinettist/saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. Zara continues to follow two paths: that of her Caribbean heritage and the Jazz and Soul element from later years.  New single 'Fussin' and Fightin' is at the top end of the former and sure to witness a fair few head nods of approval for some time to come. The musicianship heads to higher ground and is given space to breathe via pieces like the laconic emotion of Silhouette: it is 4' in before the Zara delivers her subtle, complementary vocal. The ethereal feel to 'In Between Worlds' and its bare-soul chorus offer. Moses' shuffling syncopated drums support saxophone and trombone on, perhaps, the album highlight 'Peace Begins Within'. A spiritual chorus and the subtle, shuffling batucada/military drums on 'Ode to Cyril' brings back memories of Stanley Clarke's 'The Dancer', concluding a wonderful coming together of like-minds, with Ms McFarlane as its leader.

River Nelson-Navigation EP

Assured power from New York MC River Nelson on his latest three-tracker. Once recognised by impressario, Clive Davis at Arista Records, River has been an adaptable artist, sharing platforms with performers like Common and Kelis. The offerings here follow his third LP 'How to Dream' having had Massive Attack producer, Lewis Parker, involved on the first pair. A delightful musical offering

begins with the melodic'Sun & Sea' over a five chord riff, kick drum and fingersnaps under River's message. The hardest-hitting is the title cut, reminding us of why the Hip Hop genre was so important in the first place: Nelson tells the story without hesitation. 'Glow' finishes it off with an intro of reverberating piano chords as River Nelson fluctuates between spoken word monotone and melodic Soul on the chorus. A trio of heartfelt prose and poetry to stand high above the imitators.

Out in October 2017.

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DJ Vadim & Katrina Blackstone-Double Sided

BBE Records plays host to another outing involving the irrepressible Vadim as he joins forces with American songstress Ms Blackstone. The male half of this fascinating duo needs little introduction: a career covering the bases of Hip-Hop, Dub, Reggae and Soul, DJ Vadim has always looked to pushed the boundaries of genre. Recent albums, including those on BBE Records, have solidified his unquenchable thirst to keep producing music of interest. Kindred spirit Katrina fits snugly into this ethos, initially allying with Vadim on his first 'Dubcatcher' LP. So, 14 tracks straddling those very genres, veering towards the Caribbean in its influence. There's Bowie-like Funk on 'Luv 2 Luv' a la 'Fame', stacatto rhythms under Katrina's Soulful plea on 'Choose', Soul-II-Soul-tempo quiet storm on 'Re Run'; 'Rewind' at the same pace, competing as the best song on the album. 'Stand Up' brings Dub and Dubstep together with aplomb, Blackstone getting all Jill Scott on us via 'That's Not Me' while Vadim's clever use of Gwen McCrae's 'Doin' It' on 'Shoop Shoop' squares the circle.

Resonators-Right Time

There aren't too many occasions when a listener can doff the cap to every release by a group or solo artist. Three albums in for Resonators and this reviewer is yet to hear a duff effort. This is the fourth single from 'Imaginary People' - an album that produced tracks like the brilliant 'Papa Dadio' (among their finest moments) and 'Swing Easy'. Reggae and its Dub leanings are involved in most of the band's output although, at its core this is Soul music beyond its normal categorisation. 'Right Time' appears in four incarnations here: the sultry original, led by Kassia Zermon's vocal and background harmonies that weave in and out of a simple and sweet melody. The first Dub version may just be the pick, however, man-of-the-moment, Ash Walker gets his say on the song's direction over two versions, bringing a heavier snare drum on the upbeat over a reverberating vocal. His dub keeps the drums and exploits that lovely horn line. Out on 1st September on Wah Wah 45s.


EP of the week:

The Hempolics-Kiss, Cuddle and Torture (Vol.1)

Very occasionally, a collection arrives at just the right time and captures the zeitgeist. Over the last 30 years, '91 album, Massive Attack's 'Blue Lines' and Finley Quaye's 'Maverick a Strike' in 1997 are two that did: in a similar vein, The Hempolics seem destined to follow with this, their debut LP. No prototypes here as the band arrive as the finished article with a selection, years, in the making. They head off onto the horizon with most-recent single, 'Early in the Morning' weighing in with heavy, sub 70bpm beats and a simple guitar ostinato to start the journey. As the band enter, wave by wave, the guitar is turned up for a Soulful, Santana-like solo. The lead vocal approach reminds of Beth Gibbons from her Portishead days.  'Me Love to Sing' was another single, receiving remix treatment from DJ Vadim amongst others. Bouncing along on a moody monotone, coupled with 'Warrior Sound', this is modern lo-fi Reggae at its laconic best. There is much else to appreciate beyond the genre, via the unassuming guitar riffs on the leftfield Soul of 'Roadside'. Latest single, 'Boss Clock Me Style' is a sweet Soul/Reggae alliance, tailor-made as a perennial summer record: add on 'High and Gritty' for its likeminded rival for your affections. 'In My Brain' goes straight ahead on punk guitar riffs, a drum machine and plenty of reverb, waxing and waning over its 6' and thrashing finale.

This diverse dozen ends with an obscure yet captivating instrumental nod to '60s Beat music on 'Samurai'. Watch the snowball effect as The Hempolics become a household name.


Hollie Cook Freefalling

Hector Plimmer

Bulb/Shiver Remixes

Toby Tobias

The Rain (EP)

Greg Blackman

Never Trust Another Man Again


Cord Labuhn

The Grind (Outtakes)

Martin Kohlstedt


Mr Scruff


Phil France

Joy of Brass (Remixes)



Giraffage  (feat. Japanese Breakfast)


St Etienne-Dive (EP)

Eminent '90s trio St Etienne have been busy of late. 'Home Counties' is the album and now landing with a new 4-track CD and a collection of remixes, the calibre of which includes Colorama, Shawn Lee and Matt Berry. Also joining these luminaries are DJ and champion of the re-edit scene who needs little introduction, and Derek Kaye. They formed their alliance through the very same as Mr Kaye delivered re-works of classics like original Brit-Disco outfit Player's Association's 'Turn the Music Up'. Greg Wilson's contribution is the bench mark helping to form a genre all of its own. St Etienne came to us as part of an alternative electronic/dance scene in 1991, notable for the 'Foxbase Alpha' LP that catapulted them and singles like 'You're in a Bad Way' plus the glowing cover of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'. This remix of 'Dive' brings a straight-ahead, percussive, four-to-the-floor piece. Sitting around the 120bpm mark, the track is largely instrumental, built on rhythm guitar and a fine clavinet/keyboard melody line until 3 1/2 minutes when the chorus arrives. Big late-summer tune to help the evening build, giving much more than the lazy 'Nu-Disco' categorisation.

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Various-Tokyo Dawn Records: The Move Vol. 2

A celebration of the more 4-to-the-floor orientated catalogue of the classy Soul/Dance label. Having given platforms to the likes of Opolopo, Amalia, Colonel Red, SoulParlor Positive Flow amongst many others, this is never going to be a run-of-the-mill, heavy-kick-drum affair and naturally flourishes with Soulful melody and decent songwriting to boot. The latter of those presents the rather excellent, gossamery Moji Remix of 'Children of the Sun' and 'Universal Truth'. Toulouse's Mowgan brings his full-fat twisted House approach to another pair: 'Atche Keke' and 'Give it to Me'-big peak-time business. Broken Beat queen/vocal gymnast, LyricL gives us the spoken words of wisdom for male/femalekind on 'Appreshelove'. The high levels continue on Silo's Boogie/Glo-fi variation of Leon Ware's 'Lovin' you Eternally' on 'All Night'. Competition winner Honesty weighs in with an extraordinary remix of Personal Life's 'There's a Time for Everything'. Absolutely ticking the boxes many remixers fail to do and rightly selected. SoulParlor is another who enjoys breaking up the 4/4 hegemony and brushes some Jazz over his cut 'Be There'. Tokyo Dawn have delivered a comp. of 15 future tracks for both feet and heads that will warrant attention beyond the now and deep into tomorrow. Out now.

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