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LP of the Week
Nubiyan Twist return with their brand new album ‘Freedom Fables’, the follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 offering ‘Jungle Run’, once again on the eminent British label, Strut Records.
Woven around soul searching, cautionary tales and parables for modern life, the new album is the most accomplished yet by the Leeds / London collective, effortlessly fusing different soul, jazz and global styles with great musicianship and lyrics.
"Freedom Fables reflects on the power of narratives. Each vocalist on this record explores their own memoirs, a freedom of expression underpinning our belief that music is the ultimate narrative for unity," explains Tom Excell. “The record references a lot of music that we all loved during our formative years; you can hear touches of broken beat, blunted hip hop, highlife, Latin, jazz and UK soul running through the tracks."
The fluid, wistful first single ’24-7’ featuring Ego Ella May has been championed by Mary Anne Hobbs and added to the BBC 6Music playlist. Other illustrious guest appearances on the album include regular collaborator Cherise, featuring on the brilliant future single ‘Tittle Tattle’, calling out gossip through acerbic nursery rhyming, the loping ‘Flow’ dealing with the ebb and flow of anxiety and the epic Brazilian jazz workout, ‘Keeper’; UK jazz saxman Soweto Kinch brings a burning alto solo and rhymes to the determined ‘Buckle Up’ alongside the band's own vocalist Nick Richards as the track aims to “find the door to peace” among life’s challenges.
Richards continues the “dust yourself off and find hope” theme on the rousing ‘Wipe Away Tears’; Ghanaian great Pat Thomas voices a gorgeous Accra meets London highlife jam; massive new vocal talent Ria Moran (a contemporary from the band's time at Leeds College Of Music) steps up on the sensual ‘Morning Light’ tackling delicate complexities of the heart and long time friend of the band, K.O.G., brings his trademark full strength Afro dancefloor energy to ‘If I Know’, recently performed on BBC2's 'Later With Jools Holland'.
Shaping up to be a modern classic and a priority for Strut in 2021, ‘Freedom Fables’ is set to catapult Nubiyan Twist even further into the limelight and cement their position as one of the UK’s leading soulful collectives of the current generation.
Sometimes, it's best to leave it in the words of the artist. Pioneering Ibiza-based selector Guts is our guide:
" Through the record choices and the way they are organized, one can feel the DJ’s state of mind and find out a bit more about the musical deposit discovered that is being shared and dug through by him or her at the moment.
The appetite for diggin’, the quest for a novelty or a forgotten rarity is what makes a DJ set a true organic living matter constantly fuelled although not always, unfortunately, respected.
A true digital steamroller that runs over the rhythm to fix the tempo while leaving behind an agonizing drummer whose sole crime was to have been carried away by his energy and having moved forward the BPM. At the end, everything that gave charm and life to the track, its imperfections and the peculiar fact that it makes you dance faster towards its end… all these along with all the lively movements contained within the track are reduced to nothing. My conception of music and DJ sets is the exact opposite. Since the first volume of Straight From The Decks, my DJ sets have been redesigned, refreshed and improved. However, there was no pre-existing plan, they evolved naturally following my new desires. The famous core of my indispensable musical choices started to morph little by little into something different without losing sight of its center of gravity which remains undoubtedly afro-tropical. No matter which track, its style and its origin, the quality of the music that is brought to my ears is always my sole and primary concern. In this selection, you’ll find 7” vinyl records available to everyone sitting proudly next to some rarities found online and acquired through nerve-raking auctions battles. There are indeed exclusive remixes along with titles that until now were only available in their digital formats. Now for the first time they are available here in vinyl format. Obviously, if you have chosen the CD format, that precision doesn’t really matter…
Sixteen titles which have become the heart of my sets throughout this past year.
A heart which in a year will certainly beat to a different drum…" Pura Vida . (Out on Heavenly Sweetness in April).
A ground-breaking musician, songwriter of considerable note, what a pleasure to welcome back Sean Khan to the arena, ready to entice us with his new John Coltrane-inspired project 'Supreme Love'.
It has been a long time since helping spearhead the Broken Beat movement under his SK Radicals moniker. Always captivating and progressive and the lead single here 'Starchild' is no different, offering up a scintillating taste of what’s to come from the project, with Khan delivering dextrous, elastic melody lines on both sax and flute over lush, evocative strings and an ultra-slick rhythm section. The piece also features heart-stopping vocals from long-time collaborator, and front-woman for The Cinematic Orchestra, Heidi Vogel.
“So Starchild is in an odd time signature: 7/4.” says Khan. “Coltrane was well known for using 7 note groupings or septuplet beat divisions, so that part is in homage to him. The lyrics are an ode to childhood. That’s when we are probably at our most creative, and the impulse to explore and create is generally lost, for a variety of reasons, when we reach adulthood. If we can retain this curiosity, then we continue to grow. Coltrane obviously retained this quality, but others of a similar sensibility like Bowie, Claude Debussy, Roberto Bolano and many others also tapped into their childhood experience. The importance of recognising the child within you and allowing it to flourish is a difficult thing. Many of us let it go but others try, so this song is in tribute to those people that try.”
Giving a subtle nod to his background in the UK Broken Beat scene with the contemporary arrangement of ‘Starchild’,
Khan enlists fellow pioneer of the genre Kaidi Tatham to rework the track. Tatham’s version offers up warm electric piano chords over relaxed head-nodding beats, slowly evolving into an intricate, yet effortless, double-time bruk-up groove.
Producer extraordinaire John Morales returns to BBE Music, celebrating the life and work of R&B / soul legend Teena Marie with a double album full of brand new remixes, lovingly crafted from the original studio tapes, entitled ‘Love Songs & Funky Beats’.“Teena is somewhat underrated, and people don’t really know much about her.” Says Morales. “I set out to immerse people in her music and represent what she really did. That meant for me a dive into more than her R&B hits, to dig into her ballads and dance cuts. People know she was talented. I don’t really think they really knew the depth of her abilities, her complete confidence to take it upon herself to do everything – singing, producing, arranging, songwriting. Teena Marie was the total package.”John Morales had the pleasure of mixing many of Teena Marie’s original records over the years, so it felt natural to dig into the archives and select his favourite cuts to rework, extend and subtly update in his own distinctive style.
While by no means a definitive collection of Lady Tee’s expansive musical catalogue, ‘Love Songs & Funky Beats’ represents a fitting tribute to a multifaceted and important voice in popular music, by one of the most storied mix engineers and remixers of our age.Jumping into the music industry deep end in 1979 with a three-year mentorship from Berry Gordy & Rick James at Motown, Teena Marie then spent seven fertile years with Epic, which yielded her greatest commercial successes (including the classic album ‘Starchild’). After founding an independent label ‘Sarai’, Marie took a ten-year hiatus which ended in 2004 in a deal with hip hop label Cash Money Records; a less unlikely partnership than some might assume, given that Teena was one of the first ‘mainstream’ artists to perform a rap verse, on 1981’s ‘Square Biz’.
Teena Marie Brockert forged a unique path through the industry, an artist in-charge of her own destiny, influencing (and heavily sampled by) both the hip hop and R&B sounds of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Her 1982 lawsuit against Motown records resulted in “The Brockert Initiative”, which has benefitted literally thousands of other artists by making it illegal for record companies to ‘shelve’ artists by keeping them under contract without releasing their material. She continued to tour regularly and deliver commercially successful, expertly sculpted music, right up until her untimely passing in 2010.
The album has taken three years to create, and features contributions from some of Norway’s finest musicians, including three of his idols: Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset and Erland Dahlen. “Bre” is composed of ambient experimental music heavily inspired by nature, and takes the listener on an emotional journey. Tortusa paints with sounds, and the music inspires inner visualisation of the story he tells through his weaving and blending of abstract sonic material.
The sampling of acoustic instruments forms the foundation of the album. Tortusa takes essentially familiar instrumental sounds, and warps, mangles, distorts and modulates them, defamiliarising them, repositioning them both in the context of themselves and other sounds, creating a new sonic vocabulary that is neither exclusively organic nor synthetic, but is an aesthetically balanced combination of both. This process is the source of the album’s originality and distinction from more conventional approaches to sampling and synthesis.
Tortusa composes his music with an array of hardware and software samplers, that are then fed into various effects or effects chains for further manipulations. His draws inspiration from producers like Biosphere, Flying Lotus, Teebs, and Nils Frahm. Field recordings are an important part of the production and lend additional dimensions to the music and extend the textures and moods. The music is melodic, slowly evolving and meditative.
Before lockdown put a temporary end to parties, Village Cuts were behind one of the fastest growing parties in London. Focused on dance music from further afield, the Village Cuts duo easily blend Rhumba, Cumbia, Highlife, Afrobeat and beyond with the unmistakable sounds of the UK underground. And a fast-developing catalogue of exceptional remixes is now supporting that.
Taking the massively popular Penya collaboration, Tanto Tiempo, from Scrimshire's 5th album and giving it an altogether more bass and beat heavy workover, the Village Cuts remix even delivers all new brass section and cut up vocals for a perfect party heater. Heavy music, ready for whatever the summer brings.
In 2020 Albert’s Favourites co-founder Adam Scrimshire released his fifth album 'Believers Vol. 1’, featuring guests And Is Phi, Bessi, K.O.G., Omar, Xana & Faye Houston, Penya, Stac and Tamar Osborn. The album draws from Scrimshire's passion for jazz, soul and electronic music of all styles; from energetic Afro-disco through lushly orchestrated neo-soul to harmonious jazz experiments.
‘The Siren’ is a fresh breath of jazz-pop songs from Estonian singer, Susanna Aleksandra. Elegant songs celebrating the strength and charm of women, love’s infinite power to heal and accepting past errors, all infused with Susanna’s naturally warm vocals and inherent positivity. ‘The Siren’ features a wide range of original compositions, a jazz standard, and a Finnish folk song.
Music has the power to heal. ‘The Love Song’ is a reminder of the positive impact that love has. With lyrics and music by Susanna Aleksandra, arranged by Joonas Haavisto, ‘The Love Song’ is a pop-jazz crossover tune about accepting true love and becoming ready to fully invest ourselves in a relationship and was a finalist in the Finnish songwriting competition, Unelmastudio. Susanna Aleksandra was born in Estonia and travelled extensively spending a lot of time working and studying in Paris and LA before settling in Finland where she has found her new jazz home, collaborating and sharing the stage with some of the most revered Finnish jazz musicians top jazz musicians. These include Holger Marjamaa (Chris Botti’s pianist); trumpeter Jukka Eskola, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen, pianist Riitta Paakki and drummer Jussi Lehtonen.
As Susanna says, “I feel that music has been the driving force of my personal development. It has taught me self-acceptance, kindness, and the “okay-ness” of taking chances and making mistakes. Singing, composing, and writing lyrics help me process and deal with the world.”
Musically ‘The Siren’ is a smooth blend from the award-winning Steinway Artist, Joonas Haavisto on piano and synthesiser, Joonas Tuuri on double bass and Ville Pynssi on drums. Clean and inspired, ‘The Siren’ was co-produced by Susanna, Joonas Haavisto and one of Finland’s leading percussionists, Abdissa “Mamba” Assefa who also features on track #5 ‘Summer Came Early’. Susanna Aleksandra has really arrived as a singer/songwriter on ‘The Siren’ it melds superb production with lyrical depth. Susanna released her debut album ‘Miracles’ in 2015. Her second album ‘Souls of the Night’ (Blue Gleam) was released in Japan in March 2020. The international version of ‘Souls of the Night’ is being released as ‘The Siren’ in January 2021 through Eclipse Music on 29 January, 2021 through Eclipse Music.
Dulwich based (Ghanaian and Antiguan heritage) Aaron Taylor wanted to be a Pharrell type behind the scenes guy. But the brilliant songs he was writing kept on stacking up and soon there were more than he knew what to do with-so he thought he might as well just sing them himself and get them out there. Almost instantly one of Taylor’s solo tracks – the addictive neo-soul bop ‘Lesson Learnt’ – was picked up by Apple and used globally in one of their adverts, giving him the confidence to properly go it alone.
Since then he’s developed a thrillingly diverse, dedicated fanbase. With 10.2 million Spotify streams last year and a sold-out pre-lockdown headline show at Camden’s Jazz Cafe,
Aaron Taylor has released his breath-taking debut album, ‘Icarus’ under lockdown. A sumptuous antidote to the age of isolation, it has its roots in the golden age of 1970s soul but brings with it a vibrant new age energy with influences from Tyler The Creator to Stevie. Taylor has been obsessed with the ancient Greek myth that gives the album its name. The son of the craftsman Daedalus – builder of the Labyrinth – Icarus was given a pair of wax and feather wings by his father in order to escape imprisonment in a tower. But he ended up drowning in the sea when the sun melted them and he fell from the sky. “I always felt like Icarus got a bad rap,” explains Taylor. “He just wanted to be free.”
The album features Lalah Hathaway (Aaron is a huge fan of her Dad) and cult Dutch singer on Stones Throw, Benny Sings. Strings come courtesy of the acclaimed Matt Jones Orchestra (PJ Morton, Yebba, John Legend). Psych- jazz to gritty underground soul combine on this very fine debut that now gets the proper push it deserves.
Following on from the international success of 2018’s album Siltane, Haitian singer-songwriter Moonlight Benjamin returns with her new single Nap Chape. In the song Moonlight Benjamin is once again denouncing the oppressive situation the Haitian people find themselves in, calling out the ruling classes but also the more troubled areas of society, questioning their state of inaction and misunderstanding.
Musically the new single continues where she left off, with her thunderous and rebellious vocals being underpinned by Matthis Pascaud’s blues driven, rock sensibilities. Whereas the previous record came together quickly in the studio, this new album was born out of playing together night after night, sharing music during the long journeys on the tour bus and bonding over a mutual love of Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys.
Brought up in an orphanage in West Haiti, Moonlight Benjamin moved to France in 2002, releasing three studio albums of varying styles before meeting with Pascaud and recording her album Siltane. The enthralling mix of heavy, guitar-laden blues, owing much to the likes of Black Keys and Alabama Shakes, and Moonlight Benjamin’s powerful vocals immediately caught the ears on a new international audience. In the UK the Guardian enthused that the album sounded “thrilling, thoughtful and, at times, downright spooky” even proclaiming her to be the “Caribbean Patti Smith”. She also gained support from the likes of Cerys Matthews, Iggy Pop, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson at BBC Radio 6 Music, while in the US Darek Mazzone of KEXP praised her “new and explosive style!”
The album Simido comes out in the UK on the 21st February on Ma Casa.