March 31, 2010

V4YS Ep/Album Review - Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two - Return Of The Ankh

Here is another highly expected album!

Fith Lp of Nu-Soul leading artist Erykah Badu, New Amerikah Part Two - Return Of The Ankh shies away from her recent experimental forays ("Worldwide Underground" and "New Amerykah Part One") to bring us back to the beginning of her career.
So to sum it up : this is what we could dare calling a "classic Badu" production that will thus probably delight those who fell in love with the deep and pure nu-soul sound of her first two albums, "Baduizm" and "Mama's Gun".

Similarly to these two records (that are without a doubt two of the best nu-soul albums ever), "New Amerikah Part Two" is a 50mn-long journey where tracks boundaries can easily be forgotten when you listen to the whole disc in a row. Like in these two records, lyrics are rather intimate, dealing with romance which comes in stark contrast with the more politically-engaged tone of her previous album, "New Amerykah Part One".

Erikah's distinctive voice and amazingly addictive slow singing tempo seem to never change from one song to the next which contributes to transport you in her warm and soulful world. Even the wide range of high-profile producers that contributed to the album (9th wonder, James Posier from The Roots, ?uestlove, Shafiq Husayn, Madlib, Karriem Riggins....) managed to each create musical atmospheres that fuse entirely in each other.

Still, if we want to highlight some of the tracks out of this ensemble we would obviously have to mention the fantastic single "Window Seat" that we had already tipped on the blog last month. The video of this song (see below) will for sure drag a lot of various reactions. Erikah's undressing herself in her hometown of Dallas at the very same place where Jfk passed away is for sure a source of chatter!

I'll also underline "Turn Me Away" that is a fresh sampling of one of my favorite 80's soul song, "You Can't Turn Me Away" from Sylvia Stripplin (though to me Erikah's song is not as good as the original), or the groovy track "Fall In Love" with music from the regretted J Dilla.

So overall Erykah Badu delivers a very good nu-soul album, contrary to the other female legend of the nu-soul scene, Sade (who sadly released another disappointing return Lp earlier this year), Erykah demonstrates by the quality and diversity of her producing and artistic choices that she remains at the forefront of this musical universe.

Below a youtube link to the surprising video of "Window Seat" and a deezer player of my 2 other favorite tracks from the album along with the original track from Sylvia Stripplin "You Can't Turn Me Away"

Découvrez la playlist Erykah avec Erykah Badu

March 30, 2010

V4YS Concert Review - José James - Blackmagic Release Concert, La Bellevilloise, Paris 28/03/10

Well, well, well, I'm gonna need the help of an online fr/eng dictionnary to write this short review as my english vocabulary may quickly fall short of superlatives to accurately describe the phenomenal performance I've been attending last sunday night at La Bellevilloise in Paris.

I was particularly curious to see how Jose James would present his second album, "Blackmagic", on stage, as he enters new musical spaces (beats/nu-soul) compared to the pure "nu-jazz" sound of his already legendary first album "The Dreamer". The result is the best live act I've seen so far this year.

First interesting surprise, on top of his three outstanding musicians (a drummer, a pianist/keyboard and a bass player) Jose was joined by a female singer, Jordana De Lovely, who happened to be a remarkable addition to the show.
Whether she was singing together with Jose, as an amazing leading singer like on "Love Conversation" (a track that she contributed to on the album) or as a backing chorist, we could feel the amount of work and preparation that the two of them did together. She also has a great stage presence, full of sincerity and sensuality, that blends beautifully with Jose's own charisma.

 The concert started by a long nu-jazz instrumental track by the band that was in direct filiation with "The Dreamer" nu-jazz sound.
Then came Jose and Jordana on stage and the atmosphere changed to a darker and bewitching sound when he started to sing the first verses of the single "Code", written by abstract hip-hop artist Flying Lotus.
Actually "sing" is not the correct word, "sermonned" or "chanting psalms" would be more accurate. Like a hip-hop sample loop being repeated or a (good) broken record, his long and powerful vocal intro flow was absolutely stunning.

The transition to the second extract from the new Lp, was also amazing. Like a great Dj, the trio imperceptibly changed the rythm from "Code" to "Save Your Love For Me" and Jose slowly came back to his more traditional singing style to interpret this classic jazz song.
A bit later came a fantastic cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" (sung in tandem with a mesmerizing Jordana De Lovely) that served as an intro to "Detroit's Loveletter" where Moodyman signature was obvious in the warm and laid-back groove played by the brilliant Rhodes keyboard player.
They repeated this cover pattern for the track "Blackmagic" with an intro glimpsing at Santana's "Black Magic Woman".
The band also made a small tribute to Alice and John Coltrane who play such a prominent role in Jose's artistic influences. His hypnotic psalmoding quoting the title "A Love Supreme" backed by a dismantled free jazz tempo acted as a deep praise to the memory of the Coltranes' genious .
This was also  a reminder that he should soon be releasing an album on Verve with belgian pianist Jef Neve on this matter (more on this here).
Other highlights of the evening include his soulful interpetation of "Lay You Down" and the 20 mn-long "encore" : the band came back to play the third Flying Lotus track from the album, "Made For Love" where Jose and Jordana De Lovely association was at its best.
For the final track his three astonishing musicians delivered a powerful instrumental jazz tune that left me speachless!

So that was an accomplished live performance giving this second album a whole new dimension in my opinion. Jose James singing art gets more and more impressive, he oscillates so easily from hip-hop-like flow to D'Angelo-like nu-soul mode or to his classic jazz style. His range of possibilities is immense and I'm sure we'll get many more great musical treasures from his part.

So remember : this is an almost mandatory concert to go to if he tours anywhere near you! (all his coming live dates here).

P.S. : merci à Vincent (encore!) pour ses belles photos!

March 27, 2010

Re-edits/Nudisco - Rayko re-edit of Andy Gibb's Shadow Dancing

We mentionned it already, the nudisco & old-school funk/disco re-edit tide has been getting higher and higher these last few years.
For anyone (like me) who likes to dig for underlooked groovy gems, the quest is never ending. A myriad of independent labels are regularly producing great Eps but this musical space is also full of passionate individuals that use the power of musical social networks to share their homemade little reworks.
So from time to time I'll try to highlight some of the underground talented producers I appreciate. Today I wanted to drop the name of Rayko from Madrid, Spain.
Alternating between his own great productions in a balearic nudisco style (some of which have been released on several underground labels like his, Rare Wiri records) and amazing re-edits that he regularly spreads around on his Soundcloud site, he is a great example of what I love with the current nudisco/re-edit thing.

And to me what better example of the definition of "a great edit" than his rework of a late 70's classic disco song from Bee Gees' younger brother Andy Gibb that is called "Shadow Dancing".
Below you'll find a youtube link to the original version of the song. It is still really nice and groovy but a bit too "flashy-disco" and "bee-gees" in my opinion.

Now when listening to the Rayko re-edit below, you'll see that he kept the groovy vibe intact (the bassline, the funky guitar phrase, the vocal chorus) but lengthen the intro, fattened a little the beats and added a few cool voice effects. The result is a much more contemporary funky disco track that nevertheless still carries this timeless 70's/80's signature.
Go check his soundcloud site to discover many more of this kind!
Andy Gibb - Shadow dancin (rayko edit) by Rayko

March 22, 2010

V4YS Ep/Album Review - Scuba - Triangulation (Hotflush Recordings)

Well here is the best electronic music record we've been listening to so far this year and possibly for a much longer period of time.

Scuba (Paul Rose), who already made a name for himself among dubstep lovers with the multiple great releases from his label Hotflush Recordings these last few years, should really mystify a wider audience with "Triangulation".

If dubstep rythms are never far away all along the 12 tracks composing the album, "Triangulation" explores a much wider range of musical universes. In fact, sitting on its core dubstep roots, it also glides at the frontier of ambient, deep techno/drum&bass and housy rythms.

The diversity of sound effects and tempos, the deep&warm sound waves that keep surrounding you, the dark but cheering atmosphere emanating from several tracks and the fine balance between "dancefloor" tunes and more ambient cuts really make of this album a remarkable piece of music.
An essential electro record really which demonstrates once again (think of last year Martyn's or Joy Orbison' releases) that this experimental tech/dubstep stream currently is one of the most creative of the electro scene.

Beatport page of the album here.

Below a quick extract of "You Got Me" and "So You Think You're Special".

March 20, 2010

Soul Kitchen, From Fatih Akin

A short digression from the musical world : I wanted to mention the latest film from German/Turkish director Fatih Akin that is called "Soul Kitchen".
Not really a digression actually as black music plays a large role in this comedy that takes place in Hamburg (that will soon get as much fame from its soul/funk scene than for its container port!).

Fatih Akin is one of my favorite independant filmaker. His most famous movies, "Head-On" and "Auf Der Anderen Seite" are must-seen dramas bringing up, among other things, reflexions about immigration.
This time it's a comedy, the story of a guy that tries to revive his faltering restaurant and that gets help both from an eccentric chef (the brilliant Birol Unel, that also played the unforgottable main character from "Head On") and Music. Fatih Akin is an authentic music lover, he even plays as a dj from times to times and his selection for the soundtrack of this film is just great (from Curtis, to Mango Santamaria or The Isley Brothers).
Soul Kitchen is a refreshing funny movie that will have you smile and groove for a relaxing time.

The movie is just out in France and currently being released in several other countries after having been awarded in the Venice film festival.
Below the trailer with french subtitles :

V4YS Concert Review - Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos (La Bellevilloise, Paris, 19/03/10)

I recently reviewed the first album of Hamburg-based The Mighty Mocambos & Uk singer Gizelle Smith. Yesterday I attended their first concert in France at the cool alternative parisian venue "La Bellevilloise".

With 6 musicians (1 drummer, 1 bass, 2 guitars, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone), 2 chorists and Gizelle Smith, the small stage was almost full and the ingredients for a great funky moment were set.
I don't know what it's like for you but as far as I'm concerned quite often my favorite part in an afrobeat/funk/soul live performance is the intro. The type of "Intro" I prefer? well I love seeing the musicians entering one after the other into the first tune (like a starting bassline, then the drums come in, followed by a guitar phrase to end up with the horns). When the rythm gets hot enough this is time for the singer to enter the stage and bring the last missing piece.
This is exactly what The Mocambos did last night and after 10minutes I knew the show was gonna be good. Their 5-to-7mn-long groovy instrumental was awesome and when the gorgeous Gizelle Smith joined them on stage the show was already on a solid path.

The band is quite young but demonstrates an impressive maturity, several solos from the first guitarist (Sebastian) were truly outstanding, so were the trumpet player moments. If the album has a clear "nu-funk" sound, I had the impression that the live act was more halfway between funk and groove, which I particularly enjoyed.

Obviously I also have to talk to you about the main lady here.
Gizelle Smith delighted us with her voice that is so warm and soulful. She clearly has more than one string to her bow : she can sing classic heavy funk like on the album, but also seems to really enjoy smoother, more "nu-soul" type of stuff.
On her live performance itself she may still lack a little bit of stage presence but she has so much charm and that easily makes up for it!
So overall that was a great moment of groove&nu-funk music. The crew is touring for several weeks, not to be missed if they visit your area! All their dates on their myspace page.
P.S. : merci Vincent pour les photos!

March 18, 2010

V4YS Selection#7 - Slow Motion

"Slow Motion" is a selection of downtempo/abstract-beats tracks I like to listen to when in need of a deep & relaxing musical moment.
Not to be confused with the usual bullshit "lounge" stuff, these are diverse spacy tunes from several talented contemporary artists you'll may want to (re)discover.
Among other things you'll find warm & soulful keyboards from Chinese Man and The Detroit Experiment, the captivating voice of Sidsel Andresen, sweet pop treats from Tarwater and Mocky, and atmospheric beats from Julien Dyne and Carlos Nino & Miguel Atwood Ferguson.
So I invite you to have a sit on your favorite coach, take a deep breath, that's it!
You're now ready to (hopefully) enjoy this slow-motion parenthesis on the streaming below :
Note : unlike our usual "selections" some of the tracks are mixed.

I added the timing of each track on the tracklisting below for more convenience.

Tracklisting :
Chinese Man - Chinese Man (up to 3mn12s)
The Sa-Ra Creative Partners - The Bone Song (3'13'' to 6'43'')
Mocky - Birds Of A Feather (6'44'' to 11'04'')
Sidsel Andresen & Bugge Wesseltoft - Try (11'05'' to 14'54'')
Uko - Real (14'55'' to 18'00'')
The Detroit Experiment - Highest (18'01'' to 21'10'')
Raphael Saadiq - Skyy, Can You Feel Me (Dj Day Edit) (21'11' to 24'52'')
Julien Dyne - The Jung & Fine (24'53'' to 27'20'')
Carlos Nino&Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - Extended Hands Of Giving (27'21''to30'37'')
Bigga Bush - Push Push (30'38'' to 34'32'')
Tarwater - Across The Dial (34'33'' to 37'44'')
Monolake - Bicom (37'45'' to 41'05'')
Smith & Mudd - 24-7 (41'06 to 45'23'')

More info/dwld link on request.

March 16, 2010

V4YS Ep/Album Review - Bonobo - Black Sands (NinjaTune)

Bonobo (Simon Green) is well known by most downtempo/electronica lovers for the diversity and quality of his first 3 albums released on Ninja Tune in 01, 03 and 06. An outstanding musician (originally bass player) and a master in the use of the multiple opportunities brought by the computer age, his signature is a downtempo electro sound where discontructed beats, complex samples, heavy basslines and warm vocal collaborations often are at the forefront.
His new album, "Black Sands", stands up to the high standards set by his previous works.

The new Lp starts with an amazing combination : the light and exotic "Prelude" melts into "Kiara" where its strings melody with a kind of asian aftertaste gets more bewitching as a slow and heavy bass beat enters the scene.
Waouuw what a beginning!
Now you've started your journey, and you'll easily let yourself float to the rythms of jazzy downtempo tracks ("Kong","The Keeper", "Animals", "Back Sands") reminiscent of Ninja Tune mates "The Cinematic Orchestra" , deep two-steps gems ("Eyesdown", "1009" ) or typical Bonobo latin-flavored sweets ("El Toro", "We Could Forever").
Uk-based singer Andreya Triana adds a smooth nu-soul tone on three tracks, we are waiting in the months to come her first Lp with great hopes.

So to conclude, we have nothing else to say but a loud and clear "bravo" to Bonobo. Go get this album you won't regret it!

Below a free mix by Ninja Tune of the Lp, and a youtube link of the fantastic "Eyesdown" single featuring Andreya Triana.

Bonobo 'Black Sands' Album Mini Mix by Ninja Tune

March 10, 2010

V4YS Ep/Album Review - Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos (Mocambo Records)

The funk scene has really been busy these last few years with lots of releases from all over the world by bands revisiting an "old-school" 60's-70's sound that had been disappearing somewhat during the 80's/90's.
The Bamboos, Breakestra, The New Mastersounds, The Daptones, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Speedometer, to name just a few, are the tip of a rather deep iceberg.

That being said, if there have been many really good productions to dig within this rich space, I often find that the average quality of LPs is quite inconsistent. One area where most of these artists almost never disappoint is of course on stage therefore the conclusion is often to say that many of these "nu-funk" groups are first and foremost to be seen live.
Judging by the quality of their first album, Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos do not fall in that "live-only" category.

The Mighty Mocambos are a Hamburg-based funk collective that also set-up their own label "Mocambo Records" on which they released a great funk compilation in 2007 that drew some interest around. At the same time they were joined by uk-based soul/funk singer Gizelle Smith. The collaboration immediately worked great on their regular live acts so they quickly decided to work on a project on their own and after a few 45's releases, here comes their first album simply titled "This Is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos". Following a rather confidential first release at the end of November09 they are doing an official launch now and are currently touring to promote the album.

This record carries a deep and rough funk sound supported by the powerful classic soul voice of Gizelle Smith. Contemporary singers like Sharon Jones or Alice Russel come to mind when listening to her. She perfectly energizes The Mighty Mocambos' sweaty beats.
The album is well balanced, alternating between solid funky dancing tracks such as the single "Working Woman", "Love Alarm" or my favorite piece "The Time Is Right For Love" (check deezer streaming below) with more mid-tempo groovy songs like "Everything Holds Blame" or "Out Of Fashion".

So all in all, here is a refreshing well produced funk album that I highly recommend for anyone fancying classic funk sounds.

They'll be in Paris next week, I'll try to go and give some feedback. All tour dates on their site.
Below a deezer streaming of "The Time Is Right For Love" and "Out Of Fashion".

Build An Ark, Live Recording At Cargo, London (29/11/09)

We already mentionned on the blog California-based jazz collective "Build An Ark" (see our 2009 favorites records review including their latest album "Love Pt.1") as being one of our favorite jazz band at the moment.
The ensemble (45+ members!) set up by Carlos Nino is one of the leader of the current "spiritual jazz" movement, true to the legacy of the likes of Alice and John Coltrane, Sun Ra or Pharoah Sanders. I could attend neither of the two shows they gave in Europe following the release of "Love Pt.1, but I just realized they had the very good idea to record and broadcast the concert they did for the London Jazz Festival under the sponsorship of the Red Bull Music Academy.
So here is the 1h long set with a smaller band (8 musicians) than usual but for a nonetheless amazing musical journey.

This is inspiring spiritual/cosmic jazz music as I love, with warm fender rhodes notes floating in the air, spiritual flute, words of wisdom, deep contrebass and powerful horns.
I find this whole performance really amazing but I would like to especially highlight the live versions of "Celebrate" and "World Peace Now" from the latest album and the cover of Pharoah Sanders' "You've Gotta Have Freedom".
I really hope they'll be back in Europe later this year and will this time visit France as I'd love to see them.

In the meantime enjoy these peaceful vibes!

Tracklisting (I added the timing to help move through their player) :
Intro - short speach by Carlos Nino (27s to 3mn30s)

1/ Improvisation (3mn31s to 5mn20s)

2/ Celebrate (5mn21s to 9mn58s)

3/ A Love Supreme (9mn59s to 17mn20s)

4/ How Do We End All This Madness? (17mn21s to 25mn26s)

5/ We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners (25mn27s to 27mn34s)

6/ Sunflowers In My Garden (27mn35s to 32mn39)

7/ World Peace Now (32mn50 to 35mn45)

8/ Build An Ark (35mn46 to 40mn35)

9/ Improvisation (40mn35 to 44mn49)

10/You've Gotta Have Freedom(from 44mn50 on to 54mn20)

11/Bonus Track : Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - Find A Way (Stones Throw)

March 9, 2010

VY4S Selection#6 - Smooth Soul (Part2)

As I did not found much new interesting releases to talk about these last few days I thought it was time to put together another soulful musical selection straight out of our fine reserve!

Echoing our first Smooth Soul selection, this second episode also presents 12 groovy tracks mostly bringing us back to the 70's/early 80's.
I blended a few classic groovy soul tracks like Roy Ayers "Boogie Back", Willie Hutch "I Can Sho Give You Love" or Minnie Riperton's "Adventure In Paradise" to more obscure gems like Pamoja's "Ooh Baby" or Jeffree's "Love Is Gonna Last". The selection ends on a more quiet atmosphere with the beautiful song "The Sly, Slick And The Wicked" from The Lost Generation and Ethel Beatty's "It's Your Love" with its deep and spacy Roy Ayers signature.

Full playlist streaming below or on the 8-tracks player.

Tracklisting :
Pamoja - Ooh Baby (1975)
The Perfect Circle - The Hand Of Time (1977)
Leos Sunshipp - Give Me The Sunshine (1978)
Willie Hutch - I Can Sho' Give You Love (1977)
Vicki Anderson With Bobby Byrd - You're Welcome, Stop On By
Esther Marrow - Things Ain't Right (1972)
Minnie Riperton - Adventures In Paradise (1975)
Roy Ayers Ubiquity - The Boogie Back (1974)
Logg - I Know You Will (1981)
Jeffree - Love's Gonna Last (1978)
The Lost Generation - The Sly, Slick And The Wicked (1970)
Ethel Beatty - It's Your Love (1981)