Review: The Fantastic Voyage label kicks off with a summery joint from RFX, otherwise known as Pharmacy Records mainstay Romain FX, straight out of Hong Kong. There's an undeniable African lilt to these tracks, shot through with a classic 90s house twist - just check the infectious bump of "Indaba Kabani". "Gambian Neptune" has a snappier feel, channeling the vibe of 80s extended dubs with its strident drum section and bombastic atmosphere. "Nigerian Charon" has an interesting mixture of vibes going on, part Art of Noise mash up and part peak time synth sizzler, while "Sudanese Xena" heads into the heat of night, conjuring up a seductive, swirling mood to get truly lost in.
Otis Redding - "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" (Soul Flip edit) (4:03)
Gerri Granger - "I Go To Pieces" (Soul Flip edit) (3:33)
Review: Sometimes you just can't beat the golden oldies and so it is that Soul Flip turns his attention to a couple of raw soul bangers. Up first is Otis Redding's classic "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" with a rousing bass section which drives along the original version.The hits hit hard, the vocal is given room to breathe and the swing in the drums is infectious. The flipside houses a soaring tweak of Gerri Granger's "I Go To Pieces", with its clattering keys and rolling soul all quickly finding a way into your affections.
Review: Following killer releases from lesser-known talents like Aristidez, Colossio and Thomass Jackson, Mexico's premier modern disco label Calypso commence a new project that sees them celebrating some of their favourite cities around the world. The journey starts in Tel Aviv, where a range of underground producers present the kind of freaky disco-not-disco sounds that get dancefloors frisky the world over these days. Niv Ast keeps things simmering and sensuous on "Rainey Heart," while Rina gets locked into a dense chug of sweaty sonics and solid rhythms. Naduve has a slower, percussion-led groove rolling on "Hex Mex" that will inject spice into any adventurous warm-up, and Middle Sky Boom finishes the record off with the tense and teasing "Marble Arch".
Review: Exploring the sounds emanating from South Asia, Masaala is a new label with a fresh outlook. The first release features Manchester-based producers Raheel Khan and Adesi turning in some powerful edits that will appeal to anyone seeking invigorating sounds from further afield. Khan's twist on "Mast Qalandar" sounds like a striking version of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's "Mustt Mustt". Adesi offers up the lions share of the edits though, channeling South Asian sounds through grooves ranging from the fierce disco stomp of "Sansani" to the low slung funk groove of "Nah Nah Nah". "Kammata" has a more dense rhythmic complexity at its heart, and "Kuchi Kuchi" collides traditional sounds with contemporary broken beat to brilliant effect.
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: Marta Ren has made us wait for a follow-up to her superb 2016 debut album "Stop, Look, Listen". The good news is that a belated sequel is in the works, with this limited seven-inch single offering a first taster of the studio sessions. "Worth It" was certainly worth the wait (sorry). Based around a lolloping deep funk groove rich in heavy bass, hip-hop style drum breaks, crunchy guitars and rising horns, the track sounds like a long lost original 1960s recording rather than something made earlier this year. That's no criticism, though, because Ren's powerful, forthright vocals - available on the killer A-side version - suit that kind of fuzzy, retro-futurist production. Don't sleep on this one - it's one of the strongest soul records of the month without doubt.
Review: Tramp Records' latest vital reissue delves into the back catalogue of the Reggie Saddler Revue, a largely little known funk combo that released a handful of 45s at the start of the 1970s. This double A-side brings together two killer cuts that originally appeared on different 7" singles, both of which are now near impossible to find. A-side "Raggedy Bag" is raw, weighty and impassioned - a scorching slab of deep funk that more than lives up to its high reputation amongst collectors. Over on the flip you'll find "Love Is Just Like A Baseball Game", a sweeter and more loved-up affair blessed with superb vocal harmonies that's nevertheless impressively fuzzy.
Review: Wewantsounds' 2019 Record Store Day release takes us back to 1978 and a hard-to-find 12" single from Lebanese composer, pianist, playwright and political commentator Ziad Rahbani. "Abu Ali" is perhaps not Rahbani's best known work - in the Arab world his various albums are far more celebrated - but it is one that has chimed with Western audiences thanks to its assimilation of elements of American disco, soul and funk. The title track is something of a beast: a 10-minute epic that wraps Arabic orchestration, mazy horn refrains and prominent piano motifs around an atmospheric disco groove and intergalactic synthesizer lines. It's bonkers but brilliant, making this reissue more than welcome. On the flipside there's a chance to enjoy "Prelude (Theme from Mais El Rim)", an epic example of Rahbani's 1970s soundtrack work.
Review: Alanna Royale has been active in the funk and soul scene for quite a few years now, though her releases have previously been limited to a handful of self-released EPs and a sole album (recorded live and thrown out to raise funds for Puerto Rico hurricane survivors). Here she debuts on Transistor Sound, with Kelly Finnigan of label owners Monophonics handling production duties. "Go" is a great chunk of fuzzy, retro-futurist soul, with Royale's superb Alice Russell style vocal simply soaring above a bustling backing track rich in parping horns, skittish drum breaks and razor-sharp funk guitars. Royale remains in fine form on flipside "I Know", another distorted stomper of the sort that should excite both Northern Soul diehards and modern soul aficionados.
Review: Founded in 2017, Ronin Arkestra is a fusionist jazz/electronica collective from Tokyo founded by broken beat keys-man Mark de Clive-Lowe. Given that the band includes some of the finest players in Japan's contemporary jazz scene - most notably members of Kyoto Jazz Massive, WONK and Sleepwalker - you'd expect this first outing on Albert's Favourites to be rather good. It is, of course, with the band sashaying between dubbed-out soundscape jazz ("Stranger Searching"), sun-bright jazz-funk influenced positivity ("Redeye Reprisal"), loose-limbed, semi-improvised intensity ("The Silk Road Prelude") and, most notably, an awe-inspiring 21st century re-imagining of John Coltrane classic "A Love Supreme".
Review: Labels Hot Mule and Secousse have teamed up to deliver something special: a killer EP of "lost gems from the golden era of Zouk and Gwo-Ka" in Guadeloupe (that's 1985 to '92, fact fans). The four tracks showcased here were performed and produced by an artist whose fame in Guadeloupe sadly never spread any further, Max Rambhojan. The A-side boasts two versions of the rather brilliant and suitably cheery "Tou't Jou Pa Min'm": the jaunty, sun-kissed, whistle-sporting 1986 original mix, and Rambhojan's heavily electronic, synthesizer-heavy, calypso-tinged 1992 re-make of his biggest local hit. Over on side B you'll find the bubby dub bass, sparse synths and flute solos of the decidedly tropical "Cecilia" and a suitably breezy, sunset-ready gem entitled "On Jou Matin".
Review: We've had less than two years to recover from the unearthing of Hidden Stash by Athens Of The North when along comes Family Groove with the promise of another lost album from the debauched Chicago funk crew Rasputin's Stash. Entitled Stash it's due in April and the hype starts here with these two beautiful soul funk adventures. "Make Up Your Mind" rides on a sleazy fuzzy groove and peppy horns while "You Are My Everything" hits more of a classic triumphant horn and harmony led vibe not dissimilar to "I See Your Face" on their second album. April can't come soon enough.
Review: Through his solo releases and work with Leon Ware, Richard Evans and Skip Scarborough, Rockie Robbins became one of American soul's most celebrated artists and producers in the early 1980s. This year's he's set to release his first album of note since 1985, with these two cuts offering a taste of what's to come. Interestingly, "Good Life" sounds a little like it could have been written and produced in the 1980s, even if the mixing, mastering and lilt in Robbins' voice reflect its contemporary status. Either way, it's warm, positive and comes blessed with a wonderfully strong chorus. "Let's Groove", meanwhile, is a little deeper and more loved-up, perfectly reflecting that side of Robbins' 1980s output.
Roger Damawuzan - "Loxo Nye" (Pushin Wood remix) (5:39)
Napo De Mi Amor - "Cacatchoule "Berceuse Bassari"" (3:04)
Sewavi Jacintho - "Miade Dua" (5:35)
Review: Hot Casa's latest must-have release is a veritable smorgasbord of Togolese treats. It focuses specifically on obscure soul music made in Togo in the 1970s, with two hard-to-find original cuts being joined by two contemporary re-edits of similarly obscure classics. The EP opens with Bosq's smooth, dancefloor-focused tweal of Yta Jourias's breezy, horn-heavy tropical soul workout "Adome Nyueto", before Pushin Wood takes over and adds a little contemporary electronic bounce - and some particularly colourful synths - to Roger Damawuzan's "Loxo Nye". Over on side B, Napo De Mi Amor's "Cacatchoule Berceuse Bassari" is a fuzzy soul shuffler rich in bright, Juju style guitar solos, hazy vocals and Hammond organ stabs, while Sewavi Jacintho's "Miade Dua" is a sweatier and heavier concoction powered by loose-limbed drumming and sun-kissed instrumentation.
(Soul) Rebel 23 (Reginald Omas Mamode IV remix) (3:30)
Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) (8:11)
Review: If you've not yet got your ears around Roger 'Chip' Wickham's sensationally sunny, jazz-fired "Shamal Wind" mini-album, we suggest you check it out post-haste. In the meantime, Lovemonk has reminded us of its magnificence via a new set of reworks from some seriously hot producers. Max Graef handles side A, first serving up a chugging, mind altering and heavily percussive "Bongo Mix" of "Soho Strut", before reaching for the sub-bass and fizzing, juke-tempo jazz rhythms on the bonkers but brilliant "Bass Mix" of the very same song. Over on the flipside, Peckham beat-maker Reginald Omas Mamode IV serves up a dusty, Rhodes-laden take on "(Soul) Rebel 23" featuring his own soulful vocals, before Gilles Peterson favourites Ishmael Ensemble mix live jazz instrumentation with rolling house beats on a sublime revision of "Snake Eyes".
Review: While he lived a musical life that spanned from boogie to gospel before he passed away in 2016, Nairobi's David Waciuma didn't get to record much. He was known much more for his live performances with bands such as The Monks Experience then, later, Rapture Voices who he recorded these two records in the mid-70s. "Devil Go" is a thumping rhythm and blues call and response piece while "Jesu Kristo" hits with more of a frazzled bluesy funk. Both make you wish he recorded much more.
Pleasure - "Joyous" (extended breaks special edition) (3:57)
Rusty Bryant - "Fire Eater" (extended breaks special edition) (4:27)
Review: Beats & Breaks are slowly working their way through some of the most seminal and scene defining foundational funk cuts. For the 007 release we're treated to a wild jazz excursion as Pleasure and Rusty Bryant get the treatment. "Joyous" (famously edited by DJ Harvey) get its swing polished and really brought to the fore on those shiny rhythm guitar builds while Rusty's king break-buster "Fire Eater" gets extended in all its sleazy Q&A glory. Limited to 300. Them's the breaks!