Review: Amerigo's The Big Payback series finds him bring together some fantasy all stars for his "J.B. and The Soul Mates" tribute concept. Here, James Brown's music is reworked, edited and chopped together with the work of hip hop giant Notorious BIG. It results in speaker blasting, floor filling, ass wiggling jams that mash up all the most iconic verses and choruses from each singer with their most recognisable guitar riffs, drum breaks and samples. It's a colourful collage that is as fun as it is funky.
Pieces To Share (Kyle Hall & Steve Lehane mix) (3:14)
Nothing To Fear (4:00)
Review: Some ultra-limited business here from Kyle Hall, which remarkably marks his first release of 2019. The Detroiter is in fine form from the off, first peppering a hip-hop tempo "beatdown" groove with 8-bit sounds, jazz-funk synth doodles and rich Fender Rhodes motifs on "Rising" before breaking up the beats and channeling Kaidi Tatham/Dego on the warm and luscious "Full Play". Turn to the flip for the similarly inclined, loose and languid, analogue-heavy melodiousness of "Pieces To Share" and the delay-laden sunrise shimmer of "Nothing To Fear", a glistening and smile-inducing number that's almost overwhelmingly positive.
Review: Under the Special Request alias, Paul Woolford has released some stellar music this year. Astonishingly, "Offworld" is his third album of 2019; it could well be the best, too. It explores different sonic territory too, drawing heavily on electro, futurist Detroit techno, Boards of Canada style IDM and the slick 1980s productions of Jam and Lewis. The result is a stunningly beautiful, spacey and far-sighted set that contains some of Woolford's most emotion-rich work to date - and that's saying something. It also finishes in stunning style with an impeccable remix/re-make of the Grid's "Floatation" that sounds like the best early 90s Orb remix you've never heard.
Review: Holden's 2006 debut album was an astonishing one that gets a timely reissue on double crystal-clear splatter vinyl. A high watermark for proudly synthetic and computer made music, it was the bold arrival of an artist who endures as an innovator to this day. "The Idiots Are Winning" is a masterclass in unhinged grooves, glitchy electronic sounds and mutant sounds that set a new benchmark in experimental textures, sound design and dance floor clout. "Idiot" is the standout banger, "Lump" is more trippy and heat workout, and "10101" is the twitchy and mesmeric workout you cannot escape. Music as idiosyncratic as this doesn't come along too often, and even 13 years left it still sounds fresh.
Review: Eight albums in and Elbow still know how to keep us interested. This time round it's a record that seems caught in perpetual motion, refusing to stay still even for a minute off its proggyness, with this the LP most removed from their standard modus of hyper-emotive, string-capped anthemia. Not that the contents aren't huge and destined to fill main rooms and outdoor arenas. A refreshing break for a band that, while unarguably talented and accomplished craftsmen, may - in the eyes of some at least - have at times been guilty of opting for the safety of familiarity rather than braving the great unknowns of sound. If anything, then, "Giants Of All Sizes" is the final pour that cements their place in the pantheons of British music. Exquisite, innovative and highly original stuff.
Steve 'Doc' Willoughby - "All My Life" (long version) (5:22)
Review: Those in the modern soul scene should already be familiar with Expansions' "Soul Togetherness" series; after all, the label has been putting out annual compilations of the best contemporary dancefloor-focused soul jams under that name since the dawn of the century. The 2019 edition contains plenty of soulful heat, from the synth-sporting '80s soul revivalism of DCR's "Positive Vibes" and the head-nodding, boogie-flavoured R&B of Shaila Prospere's "Plus One", to the Loose Ends-inspired warmth of Magoo's "Still Really Love" and the anthem-like sing-along that is Rockie Robins' "Good Life". SolatiMusic's stripped-back and seductive "Tell Me" is also brilliant.
Review: Since he released his first album 11 years ago, bandleader, trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall has proved to be one of British jazz's standout talents. In recent years he's delved into soul-jazz and big band jazz territory, so it's intriguing to find that "Oneness" is a much more spiritual, pared-down and minimalistic affair. Using a mixture of droning Indian instrumentation, languid and leisurely harp motifs, selective horn solos, melancholic trumpet lines and occasional traditional jazz instrumentation, Halsall has conjured up a series of meditative pieces that count among his most beguiling works to date. It may surprise a few listeners, but many more will find it enchanting, otherworldly and emotion-rich.
Review: While he enjoyed a brief career as a musician in the 1960s, by the time he recorded debut album "Down On The Road By The Beach" in 1983 Steve Hiett was better known as one of the world's leading fashion photographers. In fact, it was at the suggestion of a Japanese gallery owner that he got back in the studio to record what has long been regarded as an impossible-to-find Balearic gem. Hiett's reverb and delay-laden Peter Green style guitar passages take centre stage throughout, winding in and out of languid grooves and ambient electronics to create what some have called "the ultimate desert island disc" - a record of such lazy, sun-kissed beauty that it sounds tailor made for drowsy days waking up on the beach.
Review: There's a chance this Liverpudlian four piece will be familiar by now. This, their 11th studio outing, first unveiled as the 1960s slipped into the 70s, is a bonafide epic from an outfit that weren't lacking in epics; in many ways a culmination of their time together, marking the end of their active years and beginning of their legacy. By this stage, then, they've emerged from years spent on the inner journey and time on the outer, space cadeting to the hallucinogenic fuelled tones of "Sgt. Peppers" and "Revolver". Of course, there's still plenty of explorations happening, but the gritty blues rock of opening track "Come Together" really sets the tone. Five decades on, it still sounds great and maybe even better than you remember. Even if you own the original, this anniversary edition is worth having.
Praying For You (Louie Vega NYC Fender Rhodes Solo) (4:55)
Praying For You (Louie Vega Vonita dub) (5:43)
Praying For You (KDA remix) (6:10)
Praying For You (album version) (6:11)
Praying For You (Louie Vega Expansions NYC dub) (5:41)
Smile (David Morales remix) (7:01)
Review: Earlier this year, DJ Spen and Teddy Douglas's long-serving gospel-house group Jasper Street Co returned to action with their first album in 16 years. It's from that album that "Praying For You" is taken, though the selling point here is not the LP mix but rather a suite of reworks from Louie Vega. Our picks of the bunch are his jazzy and breezy "Main Mix", the brilliantly bass-heavy "Vonita Dub" (think righteous call-and-response gospel vocals and a killer groove) and the sleazy "KDA Remix". The latter is a basement-bothering stomper rich in fuzzy organ stabs and spacey electronics. The smooth, slick and pleasingly colourful David Morales remix is also rather good (it reminded us a little of vintage Frankie Knuckles rubs, which is no bad thing).
Pamela Nivens - "It's You I Love" (instrumental mix) (4:07)
Hugh Mane - "Real Sucker For Your Love" (6:36)
Switchdance - "Arabian Ride" (6:11)
Mr Marvin - "Entity" (Jazzy mix) (4:22)
Review: Almost two years on from the release of his brilliant "The Sound of Mercury Rising" compilation, DJ Harvey returns with another brilliant selection of tracks he's championed at Pikes in Ibiza. As with its predecessor, volume two offers a giddy skip through the dustier corners of his notoriously eclectic and off-kilter record selection. Along the way, he offers up chiming, synth-heavy Balearic classics (Mandy Smith, Hugh Mane), weirdo European disco (Marta Acuna), evocative electronic soundscapes (System Olympia), blue-eyed synth-pop (Pamela Nivens), drum machine-powered Middle Eastern madness (Switchdance's sublime "Arabian Ride") and a swathe of tasty contemporary cuts (the jaunty jazz-funk of Midlife, Das Komplex's ace "Slap", Nu Guinea's splendid "Je Vulesse" and Peaking Lights remix of Land of Light being the highlights).
Review: Liam Gallagher is many things to many people, and one thing to everyone - authentic. It seems unthinkable we could question the indie roller's motives, or expect anything other than the "meat and veg rock" he described his own work as during a 2018 interview with The Guardian. "Why Me? Why Not" sees him take that mantra to new heights. As an album it's as accomplished and polished as anything this pied piper of the raw and unpolished has gifted us in the years after *that band*, making for an immediately engaging collection of anthems-in-the-making that will have crowds eating out of the palm of his hand as if they'd never seen his hand before, or tasted any of the food he's been feeding them for years now. And therein lies the reason it remains impossible to criticise this undeniably upfront British songwriter. Enough said.
Review: For the past six years Jazzy Couscous has been exploring nooks and crannies of Japanese music culture in search of overlooked gems across all kinds of styles. After the success of the first installment of "Kumo No Muko", label boss Alixkun returns with another expansive collection of ambient, new age and smooth jazz reflections from a range of artists. The mood is consistently pretty, not to mention delicately executed, whether veering towards the sweet string refrain of Ayuo Takahashi's "Mizu Iro No Kagami" or the bittersweet prog guitar licks of Toru Hatano's "Kanki". There are bleepy synth trips like Akira's "Essence Of Beauty" and beat-embellished grooves to sink into - miss this rare and beautiful record at your peril.
Review: Way back in 1998 when Massive Attack's career-defining "Mezzanine" was first released, legendary dub technician Mad Professor cooked up some radical reworking. They now get their first official release alongside dubs of two tracks that never actually made it onto the album - Metal Banshee: a dub version of "Superpredators" which was a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Metal Postcard", and "Wire", which was actually recorded for the film "Welcome to Sarajevo". Wild effects, plenty of knob twiddling and oodles of reverb define this freaky late night collection and mark another essential release in the catalogue of the already legendary Mad Professor.
Review: By his usual prolific standards, Romanian producer Barac Nicolae has been rather quiet this year. "The Real You Is Not You", a double-pack of varied dancefloor cuts in his trademark minimal style, is only his second outing of the year. It's rather good, though, with sparse but groovy rhythm tracks providing the backing for all manner of ear-pleasing musical touches and mind-altering electronic effects. Our picks of the bunch are the funky, dreamy and sun-kissed hypnotism of "A Story Behind Everything" and the tipsy wonkiness of the title track, where trippy vocal samples and blissful synth riffs rise above an undulating, off-kilter groove.
Review: Blue World is an album that was never intended for release. It features music commissioned for a soundtrack for a Canadian film in 1964 and showcases a quartet that was at its very best. It's made up of short tracks and alternate takes of early Coltrane material and is utterly vibrant. Catchy little ditties like "Village Blues", stripped down numbers like the title track and the mostly-improvised "Traneing In" are all testament to the enduring brilliance of Coltrane, no matter the setting in which he was playing. The clarity of the recording and richness of the bass playing also add to the overall beauty of this record.
Review: Mancunian legends Graham Massey and Andy Barker reunite for the first 808 State album in 17 years. They recorded the new opus "Transmission Suite" in the Granada studios (where they once performed live on television 30 years ago) and looked to their hometown's club scene as their main source of influence - along with the timeless aesthetic of Detroit which has always influenced their style. Across this collection of "sonic landscapes" (as described by Massey) you'll hear the booming acid electro of first single "Tokyo Tokyo" and "The Ludwig Question", through to off-kilter jams like "Westland", futurist house grooves of "Ujala" and a modern reboot of classic "Angol Argol".
Review: "Sonic Citadel" marks Brians Gibson and Chippendale's seventh studio album and it is one that finds them revealing a little more of themselves than before. "Blow To The Head" is an intense opener with caustic texture, dense layers and scuzzy noise that soundtracks a manic episode, while elsewhere there are much more angular and punk influenced rhythm tracks with deathly vocals mired in gauzy riffs engulfed in dirt, grit and sandpaper sonics. Standout track "Halloween 3" is a suitably horror fuelled track of high energy, lo fi fuzz that will keep any demons away.
A Strong Move For Truth (feat Nadine Charles) (3:19)
Good Morning (feat Samii) (2:40)
Remini Dream (feat Ivana Santilli) (3:46)
I Don't Wanna Know (feat Obenewa) (3:21)
Unknown Faults (3:59)
Life Can Be Unreal (feat Sarina Leah) (3:26)
Too Much (feat Sharlene Hector) (1:58)
You Are Virgo (5:05)
Come Of Age (3:28)
Just Leave It (feat Lady Alma) (4:52)
Ogawa Okasan Said Just Play (4:45)
A Where Pringle Deh? (2:14)
My Standards Are (Not) Too High (8:40)
Review: In our eyes, 2000 Black lynchpin Dego can do no wrong. You'll therefore be unsurprised to hear that we're huge fans of the 4Hero founder member's latest solo album, a belated follow-up to 2015's "The More Things Stay The Same". It is, of course, superbly soulful, slicky produced and wonderfully paced, moving from the heady soul sweetness of "A Strong Move For Truth", to the deep jazz-funk/broken beat vibes of "My Standards Are (Not) Too High" via 12 other warm and seductive cuts of an equally high standard. Highlights include the summery bruk-soul bliss of "Remini Dream", the toasty boogie revivalism of "Unknown Faults" and the Clavinet-sporting brilliance of Lady Alma hook-up "Just Leave It".
Review: Last year, NYC based revivalist "gospel quartet" group the Harlem Gospel Travelers finally made their vinyl debut album after five years wowing audiences on the live circuit. 12 months later, they're finally ready to release their first full-length excursion. A nostalgic trip through 1950s and 1960s style gospel-based rhythms and blues, soul, funk and doo-wop, the album's greatest strength - aside from the authenticity of the music and production of course - is the group's incredible vocals. Brilliantly arranged harmonies play a big part, though the lead vocals (shared between all four members) are little less than stunning.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - "I Can't Dance To That Music You're Playin'" (3:57)
The Jackson 5 - "The Love You Save" (4:17)
Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (3:43)
Sam & Dave - "Soul Sister, Brown Sugar" (3:18)
Aretha Franklin - "A Change" (3:33)
Sugar Pie DeSanto - "Go Go Power" (4:20)
Joy Lovejoy - "In Orbit" (3:52)
Judy Clay & William Bell - "Private Number" (4:30)
Review: Jobbing DJs will do well to pick this one up: it's a way to bring some original soul into your sets while also serving up some big tunes that people know and love. These careful edits pump up the sunny elements, layer in funky riffs, energetic strings and up the tempos of tried and tested classics from The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Sam & Dave and plenty more golden oldies. Our picks: Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers' fine cover of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and Sugar Pie DeSanto's hardcore swinger "Go Go Power" that's sure to get those hips moving.
Yellow Dandelion (feat Georgia Anne Muldrow) (5:05)
Gnawa Sweet (6:03)
Icy Roads (Stacked) (4:17)
(To) Know Where You're Comin From (5:41)
The Leo & Aquarius (feat Jehst) (6:49)
You Didn't Care (feat Nubya Garcia) (5:12)
Self: Love (feat Obongjayar) (6:23)
Review: Joe Armon-Jones has been a driving force in the resurgence of contemporary jazz and now makes something of a victory lap with this new album on the always essential Brownswood. It's a very modern mix of bass and dub, du jour club culture and his own jazz styles featuring peers like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia. Frankly, the whole record is silky, starry-eyed and sublime and the excellent artwork also hist at the cosmic subtleties of this album, but our picks of the bunch are the neo-soul, summery stroll through the park vibes of "Yellow Dandelion", "Gnawa Sweet" which glows with mellifluous Rhodes chords and the uncompromising yet accessible sax and big brass action of album highlight "You Didn't Care".
Me! I Diconnect From You (BBC Peel Session) (3:07)
Down In The Park (BBC Peel Session) (4:18)
I Nearly Married A Human (BBC Peel Session) (6:38)
Review: Beggars Banquet turn to their Arkive arm for this 40th anniversary edition of Tubeway Army's classic early works. "The First Recordings", from 1979 has been identically sequenced as the original release with early versions of the tracks. Alongside hits "Replicas" and "Are "Friends" Electric?", our picks of the batch are "Me! I Disconnect From You", an archetypal deadpan delivery with mechanical grooves, the grungy and rock-laced "Only A Downstat" and lovable robo-pop "We Have A Technical".
Review: They may not have released many records, but samba/soul/jazz fusionists the Han Litz group have been mainstays of the Dutch scene for a decade. Here they return with a wonderfully breezy, samba-soaked collection of cuts that's remarkably their first ever outing on wax. The A-side begins with two warm, afternoon fresh tracks that sound like authentic Brazilian samba jams from the 1970s, before Litz and company indulge in a little flute-heavy jazz ("Preludia") and Afro-tinged broken beat/jazz fusion ("Yemaya Olodo"). Also impressive is closing cut "Epiphany", which has been transformed by Yoruba Soul man Osunlade into a sumptuous shuffle through deep house/samba fusion complete with Flamenco style Spanish guitar solos.
Review: Tyler, the Creator's fifth studio album was produced entirely by the Californian artist himself, but it does feature guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. It immediately debuted at number one and it's easy to see why. Rich with a complex fusion of funk, rap and r&b that glides on Cali-synths and neo soul melodies, the whole thing is tethered to the ground with a hefty low end and follows the narrative of a love triangle as told by American comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Arguably his best work to date, the production is next level and storytelling wholly involving.
Catherine Brenot - "Et Tout Est Yin Et Tout Est Yang" (club mix) (5:19)
1 Plus 1 - "Coming Up For Air" (instrumental) (5:25)
Fragile - "We've Got Tonight, Boy" (6:13)
Jarmaz - "Night City Life" (Disco remix) (3:55)
Friend Of Mine - "Just Your Pride" (4:47)
Mac & Monica - "You’re So Good To Me" (6:29)
Sala & H - "Feel The Love" (4:00)
Alexandra - "Fantasia (Fantasy)" (4:45)
Gioia - "No Secrets" (instrumental) (7:43)
Janelle - "Don't Be Shy" (dub) (6:40)
Alessandro Scellino - "Dinner In The Jungle" (Erotic mix) (6:49)
Brian Tatcher - "Hot Love" (instrumental dub version) (6:48)
Preludio - "Mysterious Nights" (4:46)
Review: Ilan Pdahtzur is as obsessive a record digger as any of his more visible peers. His particular niche is early to mid-eighties club music, and now he gets a platform to show off his skills thanks to the Spacetalk label. "Night City Life" is about music to match that exact setting - nocturnal urban metropolises with glowing neon lights shimmering in the darkness. There's a lot to love across four sides of vinyl here, from Italo disco to steamy boogie cuts and iridescent synth jams. It will make you nostalgic for a time and place you've never experienced (at least not as perfectly as this) and no doubt get plenty of dance floors on their feet.
Review: Mysterious outfit from Los Angeles, California, Real Bad Man comes through with it's 4th release, this time a 12" with an all star tribute to the gods of P-Funk. Enlisting the talents of Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor dueting with Royal Trux's Jennifer Herrema...produced by Tim Goldsworthy, Afro-Futurist Clap! Clap! and Tropical Rhythm Kings The Mauskovic Dance Band, this limited edition (300 Black/200 White), vinyl only release, comes in a printed DISCO SLEEVE 500 with hand stamped white labels.
Shine On Through (feat Mountain & Karina Ramage) (4:11)
Kosa (feat Keeno) (5:58)
The Encounter (feat Bop) (5:40)
Miles Ahead (feat DJ Marky) (4:11)
Morning Sunrise (feat Danny Wheeler, G Force & Blu James) (4:55)
Tokyo '96 (feat SPY) (5:24)
Show Me How You Feel (feat Lorna King) (4:52)
Dive (feat Polaris) (5:42)
Liberta (feat Urbandawn) (4:34)
Living For (feat Paul T & Edward Oberon) (5:28)
Transparent (feat Whiney) (4:57)
Mystic Crystals (feat Technimatic) (5:16)
Nexus (feat Pola & Bryson) (4:13)
Merchant Blessing (feat MC Conrad) (4:31)
Review: Makato is often cited as one of the pioneering founders of Japan's drum & bass scene. He's now up to his sixth studio album and it finds his airy, rolling, sweet flowing beats all present and correct. "Tomodachi Sessions" derived from a series of collaborations with close friends who have all played a part in his 25 year career. DJ Marky, S.P.Y, Bop and MC Conrad all feature and lend their own personalities to an album that offers celebratory hands in the air tracks like "Shine On Through" next to more late night dancers like "Transparent" and melodic explorations like "Show Me How You Feel".
Review: When is a psychedelic rock album not a psychedelic rock album? Anyone who has quickly scrawled answer-on-postcard reads "when it's Temples" can go straight to the top of the class. Evidently you have been paying attention over the course of the British three piece's last two full length records. It's not that things don't sound pretty out there and trippy. All the elements to achieve that are here, but the accessibility is ramped up to the level of a pop album, with arrangements owing more to traditional song craft than anything particularly experimental. Don't read that as criticism, though. Tracks like "Not Quite The Same" are huge, proud, instantly catchy but far from obvious numbers. "You're Either On Something" thumps and lunges through its various permutations, "Atomise" pares everything back, luring us in, before opening up into a frantic, grunge-metal guitar line. We can only imagine the fun they had recording it.
Review: It's not just in the album title that Newcastle bard Richard Dawson is ahead of his time. His dark sense of humour and sweaty barroom gig sonics break through the noise, identifying, tackling but not seeking to solve the problems currently facing British society. What could be more post-modern than that? The UK right now is a fractured and somewhat broken island struggling to come to terms with its own place in the modern world. It's also filled with people struggling to come to terms with this reality. Focusing on portraits of those lost souls, it's poignant, cutting and lyrically hard-hitting. A bold and mammoth concept for an album, the instrumentation is even bigger, easing up on the blues and folk of his formative years to allow more room for pop to break through. The result is proof that in times of desperation a nation can at least rely on its artists to offer some hope that all is not completely lost.
Review: Cheick Tidiane Seck's latest album is something of an all-star affair. It sees a banquet's worth of guest musicians (including fellow African music legend Manu Dibango) help the Malian music maestro send "an Afro-Jazz prayer" to the late, great Randy Weston - a musician whose unique Pan-African vision influenced so many of his contemporaries. The resultant set is vibrant and alluring, with Seck and company underpinning Weston's fluid jazz piano motifs with dense, heavy, intricate and often delightfully polyrhythmic rhythms. There are some more atmospheric and intoxicating numbers present, too - the version of "Timbuktu" is stunning, as is the bluesy "In Memory Of" - but the album's greatest calling card remains it's energetic and effervescent approach.