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Music Reviews

Crazy Penis

Crazy Penis

The Wicked is Music

Paperecordings

Now I know that, even before The Beatles, Brits have had a peculiar obsession with American R&B. I can’t blame them. I do, too. However, that still does not seem to explain to me why that island has recently been coming out with some of the best R&B out there. While over here the music has become more and more digitized, hip-hop inflected, and peculiarly pop, the UK seems to have artists who remember that soul music must first have (like the Boorman 6 girl) soul (notable exceptions being, of course, that neo-soul brood surrounding The Roots). Crazy Penis hasn’t forgotten and puts the ah-sooky-sooky-now back into the music.

This five-piece live band, started by Nottingham duo Jim Baron and Chris Todd (a.k.a. Hot Toddy), spread captivatingly lush soundscapes across your ears to spread afros, disco balls, and bell bottoms and chill any gathering. “There’s a Better Place” is a deep house cut with voluptuous keys and a subtle disco feel. “You Started Something” is so disco I was half-expecting Luther to chime in with “All My Love” before Danielle Moore’s voice blessed the track. This woman has a unique voice that can be both sweet and seductive at the same time, as in “Give It Up,” where she’s tugging at your heartstrings and your libido simultaneously.

The band is a tight combo with a decidedly dazz (disco-jazz) feel that can bust out into some broken beat/nu-jazzy/house hybrid like “Bad Dismount” (Who is that? Teddy Pendergrass?) while laying down sweet-deep grooves like “Soulmutation.” Where they really shine, though, is in their soul. Like Zero 7, they have a very dreamy R&B sound that’s quite laid back, relaxed, and more dependent upon their own musicianship, songwriting, and vocalists than on the latest gadgets on their drum machines.

I don’t know if it’s the water, bad dentistry, or the lost empire, but, whatever the reason behind Britain’s fascination with R&B, if they keep coming up with Crazy Penises, I can only encourage the love affair.

Paperecordings: http://www.paperecordings.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Soulstance

Soulstance

Truth, Simplicity & Love

Shakti

Italy’s Enzo and Gianni Lo Greco splash headlong into the lounge of fellow countryman Nicola Conte and mine the music’s soulful depths. Truth, Simplicity & Love is a warmly textured soul-ride covered in blue-water haze and tectonically deep bass lines. The album kicks off with the slow and mellow “Blue Grassland,” which glides along cherubic synths and a gritty, flittering flute that is ubiquitous throughout the album (Herbie Mann, anyone?). “Circle” is a breezy, little continental lounge groove that screams for beachside resorts and fruity cocktails. At times, Soulstance can be melodic to the point of being milquetoast (like with the title track and their Jobim tribute), but most of the time these sibs concoct solid, soul-driven soundscapes that lick your ears with hints of Blaxploitation, Roy Ayers, and creamy lounge atmospherics. This is a late-night joy ride into a dreamy unknown filled with Bill Withers sensuality that’ll ease your mind and tickle your libido.

Shakti Records: http://www.shaktirecords.com

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Music Reviews

Miguel Migs

Miguel Migs

Nude Tempo One

Naked / Astralwerks

If Naked Music is currently the empire of deep house, then Miguel Migs is most definitely the genreÃs crown prince. Bringing out all that is sexy and soulful in the music, Migs knows how to produce a powerful, pelvic thrust and can seriously piece together a moan-and-groan mix that will move you to orgiastic delights. Migs, in Nude Tempo One, is a fine jeweler who brings the perfect clarity, carat, and cut in each song. There are beautiful dance gems on this mix (by the likes of Migs, Kerri Chandler, Nathan Haines, Onda, Blue Six, Satin Souls, and Lisa Shaw) that make up a glimmering, ostentatious necklace with Fusion Groove Orchestra and Simon Green’s “The Dream” as its centerpiece. This is the deep, soulful stuff that has house going strong in its third decade and shows you why Migs and Naked are leading the charge.

Naked Music: http://www.naked-music.com • Astralwerks: http://www.astralwerks.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Zero 7

Zero 7

The 9:30 Club, Washington, DC • April 17, 2002

It is really difficult — almost impossible — to write about a set that is purposely composed and performed to be chill. And that is the word that perfectly describes British act, Zero 7. Their “psychedelic soul” is the quintessential mellow-out remedy for all that ails you. Their three-synthesizer group (with accompanying guitar, bass, and drums) erect cascading walls of massaging grooves that would make Jimmy Smith proud — especially when their Frankenstein Captain (and Tennille) keyboardist in sailor’s cap and bathrobe gets on that Hammond!

Though their sound is perfectly jazzy and R&B-inflected, they somehow deftly avoid the clichés that run rampant on “smooth jazz flavors” stations across this country. These Brits have depth to their soul that manages to remain organic though heavily synthesized. They have picked up where the Brand New Heavies left off and have surpassed them, injecting both hip-hop and electronica temperaments into their music. It is a sound that is both mellow and hip, and it makes you nod your head to every beat.

What really makes Zero 7, though, is their cavalcade of soul singers. Mozez is somewhere between Al Green and Will Downing, possessing the audience with his silk-strewn voice. Sophie Baker is the owner of those angelic voices that you find all over electronica. Pure butter. Sia Furler, on the other hand, is a belter par excellence, who has to stand a few feet away from the microphone so as not to blow out everybody’s eardrums. She absolutely brought down the house with “Distractions.” The woman simply oozed sex and sorrow and desperation, bringing tears to your eyes (they really should’ve ended the concert with that song).

Zero 7 is definitely a group that you should watch out for. Attend their concert if they appear anywhere near you. R&B fans will definitely not be disappointed — until you realize that they’ll never be appearing on your favorite R&B station. While enjoying this concert immensely, that realization did put a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Because this is exactly the kind of group that R&B needs to be hearing right now.

http://www.palmpictures.com

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Music Reviews

Herbert

Herbert

Around The House

Soundslike/!K7

To further capitalize on UK producer Matthew Herbert’s phenomenally successful Bodily Functions (which topped everybody’s “Best Of” lists last year), !K7 has decided to release his first album, Around the House, stateside. If you need any more proof that this man is a talent, this disc will definitely convince you. If it doesn’t, you need to stick with jamming to Lawrence Welk.

This disc starts off with the ethereal funk seduction of “So Now,” with partner-in-crime Dani Siciliano’s haunting vocals, which will have you autistically affixed to the “repeat” button. It’s followed up by the mellow 2step of the title track. 2step sprinkles its infectious groove all over the disc. “Going Round” is a dancefloor must. There’s also the enjoyable “Close To Me.” Then, Siciliano appears again in abstracted form with “We Still Have (The Music)” and the deep house cut, “This Time.” And just as with his sound experiments in Bodily Functions, Herbert takes a haunting, cerebral trip “In The Kitchen.” This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc that entertains, pushes the envelope, and firmly places Matthew Herbert in the top ranks of the world’s producers.

Soundslike/Matthew Herbert: http://www.matthewherbert.com • !K7 Records: http://www.studiodistribution.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Blue Six

Blue Six

Beautiful Tomorrow

Naked / Astralwerks

I’m starting to suspect that I like this album far more than it may merit. I say this because I’m really digging on Beautiful Tomorrow, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you why. That’s a hard one to admit for a guy who’s in love with his own verbiage like I am.

Blue Six is another one of those acid jazz/progressive R&B groups that delivers up the groove. It’s almost as though all 14 songs on this CD were composed not so much to stand out (though “All I Need” does exactly that). That one is simply meant to chill out and let the azure sounds wash over you. One hour-long “Aw, yeah.” Close those eyes, nod that head — you get the idea. And that’s exactly what the album does. It’s a joy. It’s a pleasure. I would never call it a masterpiece. But I’m enjoying it as though it were.

Astralwerks: http://www.astralwerks.com • Naked Music: http://www.naked-music.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Nude Dimensions III

Nude Dimensions III

Various Artists

Astralwerks

Finding a deep bass and downtempo collection is easy. It seems that in every CD bin there is a least one compilation claiming to be “The Best.” After spending the $14.99 and ripping the plastic off the case before you’re even out the door, you race to your car so you can (hopefully) be immersed in the depth of the promised music. After twelve or so paltry tracks, you toss the disc aside, never to be played again. If this is at all familiar, Nude Dimensions III is the answer to all of your endless musical disappointments. Clean, crisp, sexy songs with soul, good beats, amazing vocal work, and earth-shaking grooves is all that you’ll find on III. A no-nonsense, gripping release full of everything you could ever want. “Rain” by Gaelle gives the sense of an emotional downpour, “Don’t Stop” from Deep Sensation is an undeniable pleasure to dance to, the fun, wallpaper-worthy “Ida y Vuelta” by Savannah keeps it going, Sal Patrol offers a very interesting “Keep It Country,” and Jersey Street brings the clubber’s delight “Step Into the Light (Weekender Mix),” which is nu jazz like never before. The richly sampled “Dreamwalker” by Paulo Rocha, whispery-vocaled “Recover” by Satin Souls, the dancefloor, ’80s-flavored “Caught Up” by Metro Aera, an electro “Lullaby” from Morgan Geist, and a very professional “Love Yourself (Petalpusher Remix)” by big talent Blue Six also take up space on the latest from Nude. There is no way you can go wrong with this disc. It’s incomparable and undeniably the best! Guaranteed or your money back (well, not really, but it is still a great CD).

Astralwerks: http://www.astralwerks.com • Naked Music: http://www.naked-music.com