Review: Captain Over (real name Greg Surmacz) rather brilliantly describes himself as an "intergalactic skengman" who crafts "broken beats out of space debris". Here he makes his label debut on Darker Than Wax with his first fully instrumental EP (much of his previous work featured grime MCs). He opens the 12" strongly via the shuffling broken beats, alien electronics, warm chords and eight-bit melodies of "4D", before skewering the drums further on the wonderfully bass-heavy and out there "Deep Blue". Over on side B, "Mind's Eye" is an off-kilter chunk of spacey bruk positivity, "New Life Forms" boasts some sparkling synths and bleepy "space debris", and "Take It Too Far" is an on-point broken beat roller rich in Sinclair Spectrum beeps and rich, jammed-out chords.
Derrick Carter - "Squaredancing" (DC Nu Vox dub) (4:59)
George Alexander - "Promised Land" (feat Big John Whitfield) (3:23)
Review: This tasty release is the first instalment of BBE and Soul Clap member Eli "Bamboozle" Goldstein's "House On 45" series. The basic idea is to offer up rare and hard to find house cuts that have only ever been released on seven-inch singles. To kick things off, Goldstein has selected Derrick Carter's 2017 "DC Nu Vox Dub" of his 2002 classic "Squaredancing In A Roundhouse", an insatiable version of a killer cut rich in bluesy samples, bumpin' beats and scat vocals. Equally as impressive is George Alexander and Big John Whitfield's 2009 cover of Joe Smooth classic "Promised Land", a warm and musically expansive affair that adds superb new flute and electric piano parts to one of house music's most celebrated songs.
Review: Casbah strikes again with a powerful homage to the NYC foundations with this juicy, insatiably funky piece of disco soul. Driven by a belting vocal from Angela Goode, there's a strong sense of timelessness, honesty and raw funk that smacks with authenticity and one of the funkiest slap-bass breakdowns you'll hear all year. Chicago's Rahaan takes the remix duties with a pumping contemporary disco cut while Casbah strips things back himself for the essential DJ tool that is the percussion edit. Feel the love.
Review: Bouncing his time between Antibalas and his Marcos Garcia and Chico Mann projects, Chico returns after several years of silence with a sweet slice of lolloping broken soul. With its soft padded synths and cotton wool hug of Kendra Morris's vocals, there's a delicate tumble to proceedings as we nod and slide into a sound that's remained in its own soul universe since emerging almost 20 years ago. When done as well and with as much authenticity as this, it's timeless.
Review: If you've yet to succumb to the charms of Children of Zeus - and there can't be many out there who haven't - then this "odds and ends" LP offers a neat introduction. Five of the seven tracks have been plucked from the Manchester crew's previous full-length excursions, while the other two - seductively soulful two-step garage reworks of "Vibrations" and "Slow Down" by fellow Manchester resident Zed Bias - have previously been almost impossible to get hold of. Setting aside the club-ready remixes, what "Excess Baggage" proves is that Children of Zeus are one of British music's most essential outfits right now, delivering sensual and life-affirming cuts that brilliantly blend the best aspects of hip-hop, R&B and modern soul.
Review: One third of Azymuth and an all-round legend Ivan Conti is set to drop his first solo album in over 20 years next year. And here's a wee teaser with three on-point versions from three exceptional soul craftsmen: Max Graef goes on the cloud hopping dreamy jazz tip, allowing Ivan's brushed drums to shimmer in the all the right spaces, Contours flex hard on a classic bruk vibe where the main players are Conti's swing and the juicy fruit bassline while Glenn Astro gets lively with a heavily shaking afro rhythm and sweeping p-funk chords. Bring on the album.
Review: Given that Tom "Contours" Burford has spent much of the last year making collaborative cuts for Banana Hill that draw on tropical rhythms and native African musicianship, it's probably unsurprising that his return to Shall Not Fade should also feature some of the same influences. It's nominally a deep house EP, but the set's three original tracks are much more nuanced and open-minded than that. Check, for example, the layered hand percussion and polyrhythmic instrumentation on the jazz-funk influenced deep house brilliance of "Lisbon" and the tropical-tinged, intergalactic sci-fi house of "5th Planet". The B-side boasts two versions of "North West": the lilting horns, music box melodies and soft-touch percussion of Burford's original, and the Herbie Hancock inspired bruk-up business of Kaidi Tatham's superb revision.
Review: Given the popularity of Todd Terje's 2012 nu-disco anthem "Inspector Norse", it's a bit of a surprise that we've not seen more cover versions over the years. By our reckoning, this is only the second, following the release of The Gene Dudley Group's heavy funk take in 2015. Cruisic's version is very different in tone, re-imagining the Norwegian's spiraling dancefloor epic as a shuffling jazz-funk workout where Terje's spiraling synthesizer lead lines are replayed on electric piano and flute. There are plenty of synths involved, but it's an altogether warmer and looser take on the anthem-like original. Slowly provides the obligatory B-side remix, turning Cruisic's version into a jaunty summer synth-dub workout with a touch of dub disco flavour.
Review: Freshly minted label Dance Regular has pushed the boat out for release number one, pulling together no less than six tracks on a multi-artist extravaganza. James Rudie steps up first via the Rhodes-laden, off-kilter deep house dustiness of "Good Fry Up", before Szajna doffs a cap towards 2000 Black on the deep and musically rich broken beat business of "Break In My Back". Captain Over's "No-Look Nutmeg" is a suitably bass-heavy bruk workout laden with 8-bit electronics, while Xtra Brux's "Somebody" brilliant joins the dots between broken beat and two-step garage. Elsewhere, Trev's "For You Around Me" is a sumptuous chunk of summery and soulful dancefloor bliss, while Ishfaq's "Hypnosis No 9" is jazzy, synth-heavy and wayward in the best possible way.
Review: London's Catching Flies returned to action last year after a five year absence with "Satisfied", an ambient and chillwave flavoured single that was every bit as alluring as his earlier work. Here he attempts to build on that success with a confident debut album that reminded us a little - in parts at least - of Jordan Rakei's earlier work. The ten tracks largely tend towards the slick, soulful and summery, with woozy lead vocals riding atop head-nodding beats, soft-touch instrumentation, jazzy guitar passages and the kind of sunset-ready sounds that will delight those of a Balearic persuasion. Highlights include the music box melodies of ambient curt "Opals", the sunny opener "Komerebi" and the sing-along stomp of "Satisfied".
Review: Four years on from solo comeback "Blank Project", veteran chanteuse Neneh Cherry returns with an album overflowing with lyrical potency. Like many people, the sometime Rip, Pig and Panic and Slits singer is rather depressed with the state of the world, and has used the album to comment on many of today's ills. Combine her eccentric (but undoubtedly on-point) social commentary with vibrant musical backing that refuses to settle on one sound or style - we detected jazz, ambient, dub, trip-hop, calypso, Balearica, folk and electronic at various points, and sometimes multiple genres within one track. Cherry has a great track record, of course, but even by her standards "Broken Politics" is something special.
Shared Stories Of Rivals (Keita) (feat Saul Williams) (4:38)
Forevergirl (feat Chris Turner & Mike Larry Draw) (5:37)
Diviner (Devan) (3:48)
Songs She Never Heard (feat Logan Richardson) (5:56)
Ritual (Rise Of Chief Adjuah) (6:00)
Before (feat Elena Pinderhughes) (6:15)
Double Consciousness (3:52)
Ancestral Recall (feat Saul Williams) (6:08)
Review: New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah returns with his first album in almost two years, an essential set of spiritually conscious Afro-jazz that wraps his bold, mesmerizing and memorable trumpet solos around a variety of skittish tribal rhythms, Mariachi style horn riffs, soulful vocal arrangements and 21st century jazz instrumentation. It's a unique and thoroughly absorbing signature sound, with the assembled guests - most notably Saul Williams, Elena Pinderhughes and Logan Richardson - adding much to Scott aTunde Adjuah's intoxicating sound soup. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, from the slow burn soundscape of "Diviner (Devan)" and wonderfully percussive "Ritual (Rise Of Chief Adjuah)", to the intergalactic drowsiness of "Prophecy" and breezy "Double Consciousness".
Review: "Ma Fleur" is the first full studio album by Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra since 2002's "Everyday". The record was written as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not be made). Shortly after finishing "Everyday", a piece of music which achieved great critical and commercial success, Jason Swinscoe relocated from East London to Paris. Here he began work on the instrumentals which would form the basis of his new record - more moods than finished tracks, a series of sketches or diagrams of directions to follow. Having completed a rough version by early 2005, he gave this to a friend who disappeared for three weeks and came back with short story scripts in which each scene represented a story of a different time in life, expressing the emotions which underpin the journey from birth to death. Jason then took this and worked some more on the tracks, and in turn gave this back to his scriptwriter, the two aspects of the project developing alongside one another. Gradually, Swinscoe recruited suitable vocalists for the atmospheres and themes he wanted to deal with. The remarkable Fontella Bass, who is now sadly in frail health, is the woman behind both legendary soul number "Rescue Me" as well as some of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's finest moments, had worked on "Everyday" and was an obvious choice to voice the parts of the elderly protagonist that Swinscoe envisaged. Mercury-nominated Lou Rhodes is not only a fantastic singer but a young mother and so perfect for the "mid-life" singer. The as-yet unheralded Patrick Watson, a remarkable vocalist from Montreal, became the youngest of the trio.
Review: Given the rise in popularity in new school jazz in recent years, it seems a fitting time to welcome back Ninja Tune stalwarts The Cinematic Orchestra. "To Believe" is not only their first album in some seven years, but also one of their strongest releases to date. Opening with the poignant neo-classical/soul fusion "To Believe", the set sees Jason Swinscoe and company attractively saunter between jazz-electronica fusion (Roots Manuva collaboration ("A Caged Bird/Imitations Of Life"), pastoral jazz epics (the sunset ready epic that is "Lessons"), gentle downtempo songs ("Wait For Now/Leave The World"), ambient jazz ("The Workers Of Art") and slowly unfurling dancefloor workouts (killer closing cut "A Promise"). In a word: stunning.
You Are All You Need (feat Georgia Anne Muldrow) (3:55)
Higher Plains (3:51)
Review: There's something rather special about this collaboration between South London collective, long-running NTS show and (now) label Touching Bass and Melbourne imprint Wondercore Island. It comes from Clever Austin aka Perrin Moss, a self-taught producer and multi-instrumentalist best known for being the drummer in Hiatus Kaiyote, and is as diverse, eclectic and imaginative as any set we've heard this year. Opening with a seductive slice of otherworldly ambient, "Pareidolia" sees Moss offer up a slowly-shifting, cinematic voyage that variously touches on lo-fi art-rock, off-kilter contemporary jazz, skewed modern soul, experimental synthesizer soundscapes, discordant out-there funk, wide-eyed Balearica, mutant African-influenced oddities and much more besides. As solo debuts go, it's breathtakingly good.