The musical harvest continues, and I seem to be writing in themes – the last post was all about the R&B and Jazz, and the post following this one will focus on new Reggae & African releases.
For this post, I’m checking out new Dance, Electronic, and Downtempo music, with the new album from Disclosure, the full length solo debut from Galimatias, a collaboration between two Drum ‘n Bass MC legends, DRS and Dynamite MC, a new project from Bob Moses, a new album from Erasure, and something new from longtime Swiss duo Yello,
So it appears the brothers Lawrence, better known as UK House/Garage producers Disclosure are attempting to address their critics with the release of their third album ENERGY; they said their last album, 2015’s Caracal was a little too much in an R&B vein, and not enough in a dancefloor style, like their 2013 debut Settle.
I had a chance to review the Deluxe version of the album, and it comes out the box firing on all cylinders, and as Disclosure like to do, they rotate in a cast of singers to provide vocals on most of the tracks, so we get Kelis on the set opener “Watch Your Step“, followed by Channel Tres for the sexy “Lavender“, British rapper slowthai joins them for “My High“, Mick Jenkins on “Who Knew?”, and then one of my favorites, “Douha (Mali Mali)” featuring Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara. At this point, listeners have to be going “they’re back!!” – five tracks in, and it’s back to the House & Garage everyone’s looking for from them. They slow it down for a quick interlude before revving up the bpm’s again with “Ce N’est Pas” featuring Blick Bassy, and the title track, which features a motivational speaker doing his schtick; afterwards, it slows back down for another interlude, which samples an old Soul track, before going into the sexy R&B of “Birthday“, featuring Kehlani and Syd (from the group The Internet). They close out the first half with a nice track featuring Common on “Reverie“, a nice track accompanied by a nicer video (they’re calling it a visualizer) of Ugandan kids dancing to the music.
The second half of the album begins as did the first, with the House/Garage stomper “Ecstacy“, followed by the Disco-ish “Tondo” which feature Eko Roosevelt, and then they House-ify Boz Skaggs’ “Lowdown“, renaming it “Expressing What Matters“, take a tribal detour on “Etran” featuring Etran Finatawa, before returning once again to the Garage, with “Get Close“, and then the slightly slower “Know Your Worth“, which features Khalid. Closing out the set is another track featuring Khalid, his hit single from last year “Talk“, and two remixes of “Birthday“, including a 2 Step mix from MJ Cole.
This album is a return to form for Disclosure- not that their last album was bad, it wasn’t (I bought it!), it was just a little different than people expected. This one returns the ENERGY to the music, and though it doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, it doesn’t have to – sometimes you like things just the way they were… Here are two videos from the album, for “Douha (Mali Mali)” and “Birthday“…
I’d been waiting for some new music from this guy for a while, and it’s finally here, Renaissance Boy, the proper solo debut of Danish born, L.A. – based producer Galimatias, best known for his dope 2015 collaboration with Alina Baraz Urban Flora; supposedly he has a couple of earlier albums that aren’t widely available.
Slow, dreamy, electronic soundscapes are his specialty, mixing in some Soul, Hip-hop, and Jazz elements into his downtempo formula. It’s a bit brief overall, just over a half hour for the 11 tracks (including three shorties of between 1-2 minutes), but you have some quality stuff here; criminally missing, though, are a couple of really nice singles that preceded this album that you should check out ; “Blowback“, which is probably my favorite track of all by him – it incorporates the classic Barbara Lewis track “Hello Stranger“, and “South“. The best tracks here in this collection are the latest single “Let Go“, previous single “Redeye“, and my personal favorite track “GPS“, which features rapper Bas. Galimatias often sings in a lithe falsetto, but he comes out of it a bit here, or he alternates between it and his lower register, and musically, he takes an almost classical approach with some of the orchestral samples he uses with otherwise Trap-ish instrumentals – very interesting.
Late nights, quiet moments, or even bathtub soaking could be very satisfying with this as the soundtrack in the background. Galimatias concocted a heady brew with this debut; I think it could’ve been even better with those other two tracks, but this stands up well without them. Here is the video for “GPS“…
On my side of the Atlantic, I remember people salivating a few years ago, when the news of a collaboration between Kanye and Jay-Z started making the rounds; similarly, on the other side, when news recently broke of a collabo between DRS & Dynamite MC, two veterans of the Drum ‘n Bass scene , there was similar salivation. DRS is the most popular, and definitely the most prolific of the MC’s in DnB, featuring on new tracks by artists seemingly every other week. I first noticed him on some of the early Logical Progression sets released by LTJ Bukem back in the late 90’s, so he’s been out there a long time; Dynamite was a part of Roni Size’s Reprazent crew in the late 90’s- early 2000’s, and has also enjoyed a solo career during the first decade of the new century, as well as having a strong media career. Playing In the Dark is the name of their collaboration, released on Hospital Records.
Of the album’s 16 tracks, we have contributions from 15 different producers; veteran producer Calibre has two tracks. Several of them are in-house artists with Hospital, including label head Tony Colman’s London Elektricity with “Fix It All“, which was also included on the label’s Sick Music 2020 compilation; others include my guy S.P.Y with the first single “Back & Forth“, Etherwood has a nice mellow one where DRS sings with “Do You Ever“, Unglued gives us the pointed junglism of “Brothers“, and Keeno & Obsel produce the closing track “Still Beautiful“, which uses a piano riff I could swear is the theme song from an American sitcom. Otherwise, we get a track from the great DJ Marky (“A Song for You“), Roni Size (“Not the Fake Ones“), LSB on the really nice “Adoration“, The Vanguard Project for the title track, and the aforementioned Calibre for two tracks, “Highrise FM“, which celebrates pirate radio’s connection to DnB, and “Joint Venture“. The guys trade verses on each track, illustrating their smooth flows; Dynamite sounds almost American, while DRS is not quite his deadpan sounding self (most of the time), and both of them (especially DRS) will sing for you, too.
So did this album justify the advance hype it drew? For the most part, I would say it did. I’m not sure that every producer’s style fits this duo perfectly, but you can’t blame them for trying to mesh well with them. The guys are in fine style- DRS, in particular, seemed energized by the project. And as far as packaging, there aren’t too many MC – featured albums with booklets that contain a complete lyric sheet for all the tracks. DnB is my current favorite style, so you know I had to cop this one; you should check it out too… Here is the video for “Back & Forth“…
The latest release from the Vancouver – based duo of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, known as Bob Moses, named after an urban planner who helped develop the modern-day New York City, is the EP Desire; this is the followup to 2018’s Battle Lines and its’ remix project from last year.
This EP has six tracks sequenced as a continuous mix, plus two single edits of “Desire” and “Blame“; it furthers their trend towards making moody, trance -style House music- the type you hear all over the Sirius xm Chill channel, or as they coin it “deep House”. To make it more interesting, they supplement their sound with a little inobtrusive guitar action, and vocally, they are usually quite subdued, as well, adding to the ambiance.
It’s a short release, about a half hour (minus the two edits), so this review is suitably short : I like it… Here’s the video for “Desire“…
So here is the first of two artists that I was a big fan of back in the 80’s and early 90’s, that I haven’t checked out in years, and so I decided to peek in on them. Erasure is something of a national treasure in the UK, and they have the lineage to support the musical royalty they are – Vince Clarke, one of the co-founders of Depeche Mode, split off from them to form Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.) with Alison Moyet, and after two nice albums together, they split and Moyet went solo. After a brief stint with various side projects, he recruited Andy Bell to form this group – and for most of the past 35 years or so since then, they’ve churned out some great danceable synth-Pop. The Neon is their 18th studio album, and first since their 2017 release World Be Gone.
I followed these guys for about the first decade of their career, until they started tinkering a bit with their formula; they’ve done some other things musically since the mid-90’s, but this album signals a return to their original sound. It’s like the mid to late 80’s again with this album – nice 3 1/2 to 4 minute slices of synth-pop confection – three singles were released from the album in advance, including “Nerves of Steel“, which celebrates drag culture, “Shot A Satellite“, and “Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)“, and they keep the beat going, as does all of the first half of the album. The second half slows down the pace, with electro-ballads “Tower of Love“, the closing track “Kid You’re Not Alone“, and the piano-driven “New Horizons“. One thing I did notice that’s different from what I remember is Bell’s voice, which has lost its’ lithe quality, bur has matured and is more husky (like the rest of him, as well).
At this stage of the game, Erasure seem to be content with trying to ride the sound of the glory years of the group, and those that have been fans since the beginning (and someone like me, who jumped off their wagon, and onto a different one) will happily take the ride with them. Icons of the LGBTQ community, they have a loyal following, and straight guys like me like them, too. This album is everything I always loved about them… Here is the video for “Nerves of Steel“…
The other group I’m checking in on, that I haven’t listened to in years, is Yello, the Swiss duo comprised of now 75 year old Dieter Meier and 68 year old Boris Blank. I started listening to these guys in the early 80’s also, with “Bostitch” being the song that put them on the map; they got play among the urban youth in Chicago during what was called the “punk-out” years, which was essentially Black kids dressing quirky, and listening to the Alternative dance music of the time. I was pleasantly surprised to learn they’ve been making music all these years, as I stopped listening to them after 1988’s Flag album- not because I didn’t still like them, I just got swept away in the Hip-hop /Psychedelic mix of the Madchester sound of the early 90’s, and then the Acid Jazz, Trip-hop, and Jungle styles completely commanded my attention for the rest of the decade. They’re the group famous for the track “Oh Yeah” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Point is their new album, their 14th studio album, and first in four years, since 2016’s Toy.
As I listened to this album, it all sounded very familiar to me, so I went back and listened to their Stella, One Second, and Flag albums from the 80’s (all of which I own); then it hit me as to why it sounded familiar : these guys haven’t changed one bit. It’s as if they’re stuck in a time warp… one listen to the single “Waba Duba“, and it all came flowing back to me; it’s probably why I stopped listening, as the times changed, but they didn’t. That’s not all bad, of course, because if you have a good formula, you tend to stick with it, and they have… for the past 35 years or so.
The Yello brand of music is great for it quirkiness, good for soundtracks, and otherwise serviceable to move your feet; they’re no longer cutting edge, like they once were, but more of a legacy act. It’s good to still them around – you’re as young as you feel, and they apparently still have the feeling…. here is the video for “Waba Duba“…