Review: The criticism of Anderson .Paak's last album, the glossy, big-budget "Oxnard", was so voluminous that his mum took to social media to defend it. The fast-rising rapper laughed off the haters at the time, but it must have hurt. Either way, he's changed direction again on "Ventura", a follow-up that's noticeably more refrained than its predecessor. Musically, what we're offered is stripped-back '70s soul and Prince style purple funk instrumentation fused with head-nodding hip-hop and R&B beats. Paak is lyrically on point throughout, eschewing some of his more sexually explicit lyrics in the post #MeToo era. To complete the picture of an artist going back to his roots, the assembled guests (Outkast's Andre 3000 included) are generally pushed to the background in an unobtrusive manner.
Review: Originally issued back in 1998, Mezzanine remains the most commercially successful album released by Bristol troupe Massive Attack, thanks in no small part to the Liz Fraser-featuring "Teardrop". This third album signalled a change in sonic direction that played more explicitly on the darkness and tension that was always an undercurrent of their much loved debut Blue Lines and successor Protection. After numerous bootlegs over the years, Virgin have done the right thing and presented this official reissue of Mezzanine to appease fans of Massive Attack and it's clear the LP has lost none of it's bewitching power. The Quincy Jones and Isaac Hayes sampling "Exhange" and "Exchange" remain a delight in particular.
Review: There's a reason that Massive Attack's Blue Lines frequently appears in "greatest albums" lists. To put it simply, it's brilliant, and arguably remains the Bristol-based outfit's finest work to date (though some would argue that the dark and paranoid Mezzanine is possibly better). As this weighty vinyl reissue proves, it's lost none of its hazy, dub-propelled trip-hop charm. All-time classics such as "Unfinished Sympathy", "Safe From Harm" and "Hymn of the Big Wheel" have lost none of their soulful, mood-enhancing brilliance, while lesser celebrated cuts such as "Five Man Army" and "Lately" still sound great despite their vintage.
Burning Down The House (feat George Clinton) (3:03)
Spontaneous (feat Little Dragon) (2:11)
Pilgrim Side Eye (1:30)
All Spies (1:45)
Yellow Belly (feat Tierra Whack) (3:07)
Black Balloons Reprise (feat Denzel Curry) (2:52)
Fire Is Coming (feat David Lynch) (3:23)
Inside Your Home (1:14)
Actually Virtual (feat Shabazz Palaces) (2:06)
Remind U (2:42)
Say Something (1:16)
Debbie Is Depressed (2:19)
Find Your Own Way Home (1:35)
The Climb (feat Thundercat) (3:19)
9 Carrots (feat Toro Y Moi) (3:01)
Land Of Honey (feat Solange) (3:27)
Thank U Malcolm (1:32)
Hot Oct (4:10)
Review: No less than five years since his last mind-busting opus, "You're Dead!", the one and only FlyLo finally returns with a staggering new album. At this point all bets are off as to which direction the visionary beat scene maven will take his stellar sound, and true to form "Flamagra" departs from solid ground quicker than you can shout "lift off". From arrhythmic spirituals to futuristic soul, the Cali man known to his family as Steven Ellison has never sounded freer in his sound. The cast of guest spots is off the charts as well - George Clinton, Little Dragon, Solange, David Lynch and Anderson .Paak are just some of the dazzling talents involved. Need we say more - take a trip once more with one of the 21st century's most visionary producers.
Review: By the time they headed into the studio to record Protection, Massive Attack were still riding high on the success of their peerless debut album, Blue Lines. While the resultant set, released in 1994, does quite hit the same dizzying heights, it remains a thoroughly great album. Of course, we all know the highlights by heart - the stoned bounce of "Karmacoma", evocative downtempo bliss of Tracey Thorn hook-up "Protection", string-drenched lusciousness of "Sly", and the gentle dub-house soul of the Horace Andy-voiced "Spying Glass", for example - but even the forgotten album cuts (see "Weather Storm" and "Better Things") have aged remarkably well. If you don't own a copy on vinyl already, you definitely should.
Bus Ride (feat Karriem Riggins & River Tiber) (2:13)
Got It Good (feat Craig David) (3:48)
Together (feat Aluna George & GoldLink) (3:18)
Drive Me Crazy (feat Vic Mensa) (4:38)
Weight Off (feat BadBadNotGood) (2:36)
One Too Many (feat Phonte) (3:39)
Despite The Weather (2:02)
Glowed Up (feat Anderson Paak) (4:59)
Breakdance Lesson N.1. (4:29)
You're The One (feat Syd The Kid) (3:52)
Vivid Dreams (feat River Tiber) (4:39)
Lite Spots (3:49)
Leave Me Alone (feat Shay Lia) (4:38)
Bullets (feat Little Dragon) (4:59)
Bus Ride (feat Karriem Riggins & River Tiber)
Got It Good (feat Craig David)
Together (feat Aluna George & GoldLink)
Drive Me Crazy (feat Vic Mensa)
Weight Off (feat BadBadNotGood)
One Too Many (feat Phonte)
Despite The Weather
Glowed Up (feat Anderson Paak)
Breakdance Lesson N.1.
You're The One (feat Syd The Kid)
Vivid Dreams (feat River Tiber)
Leave Me Alone (feat Shay Lia)
Bullets (feat Little Dragon)
Review: Since debuting on Bromance in 2013, Kaytranada has become one of the leading lights on the future R&B scene. Given his track record, it's understandable that there's plenty of hype surrounding 99.9%, his long await debut album. The 15-track sees him showcasing the depth and variety of his beat making, production and compositional skills. Thus, the string-drenched jazziness of "Bus Ride" is followed by the off-kilter R&B pop of "Got It Good", and the Onra-ish synth-hop soul of "One Too Many" sits side by side with the double bass, Rhodes and Latin-influenced beats of "Despite The Weather". It's pretty expansive, clocking in at 15 tracks deep, but the quality never dips throughout. Recommended.
Review: Helmed by The Haggis Horns saxophonist Rob Mitchell, the Abstract Orchestra is a "hip-hop big band" from Leeds that specializes in jazz-fired cover versions of classic head-nodding beats. Having first impressed with a set of J Dilla interpretations in 2017, last year they turned their attention to Madlib and MF Doom's collaborative Madvillain project. As the title suggests "Madvillain 2" picks up where its predecessor left off, offering up sumptuously orchestrated, funk-fuelled and jazz-wise takes on such familiar cuts as "Meat Grinder", "Rainbows", 'Fire In The Hole" and "Operation Lifesaver". There's a tasty bonus cut, too, in the shape of the Abstract Orchestra's remix of their collab with Dabrye and MF Doom (yes, that MF Doom), "Air".