Suzanne Kraft – What You Get For Being Young

Having burnt out the Soundcloud sampler for Suzanne Kraft’s new album ‘What You Get For Being Young’, we at DnV have been eagerly awaiting the release proper (and yes, it’s coming out on vinyl).

As you would expect from soundscape explorer Kraft, it’s layer upon layer of lushly crafted synths, softly compiled drum shuffles and delicately balanced sweeps of, well we’re not really sure what to be honest, but heck, it works.

Relocate your hi-fi to the bathroom, run a hot tub with some bubbles and mull over this one for a few hours. If you want to leave the record player downstairs though, the full release on Melody As Truth is this Thursday, 1 December 2016.

Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus

Shame, shame shame on us for not bringing this monumental piece of work to your attention when it was first released at the start of the month. Yussef Kamaal’s debut offering – ‘Black Focus’ brings something to the UK jazz, funk scene that we have been hankering after for quite some time.

So, who is / are Yussef Kamaal? Pretty simple really – Yussef Dayes (United Vibrations) and Kamaal Williams (a.k.a Henry Wu), accompanied by other fine musicians as the arrangement requires.

Given that both hail from South London and have by all accounts been acquainted since 2007 you may ask why it’s taken so long for them to find their way to this point and sound. Who cares really, it’s here now and you need it.

They first came together in their current form to perform a Boiler Room live session awash with the sweeping synth breaks (no joke – the panning on the synths for this session is something to behold in itself), drumming flair and rugged yet funky bass that punctuates their debut offering. Boy are we glad that things developed from there.

The frenetic pace of Dayes’s drumming coupled with the depth and detail of the bass lines that drive the melodies on tracks like ‘Strings of Light’ and ‘Lowrider’ hit you straight down the middle and can easily lead you astray. Allow yourself to sink deeper into the mix of sounds and textures that Williams deftly crafts across a range of instruments behind and around this in order to fully appreciate what the Yussef Kamaal sound truly is. From delicate almost wind chime like keys to expansive guitars that attack you in waves from the left and the right. One moment it’s fairground style organs the next you’re floating on a lusciously rich plane of strings. It’s all there for the taking.

There’s still a chance to see them on tour this year on the continent and at Gilles Peterson’s Christmas bash. Don’t miss your chance to appreciate this music in its truest form.

Jorja Smith – Something In The Way

Here’s a little simply sublime slice of neo soul to warm you up as winter looms and the nights draw in.

A haunting choral introduction may appear a touch misleading of the song that develops but in fact becomes a strong motif throughout the song. A kick off of a slow drum groove, shuffled along by the ever present shakers. The partnering of a sparse yet ebullient bassline, sitting over the top of glowing guitar chords with its occasional flourishes (the solo is definitely two thumbs fresh). You’re into the track now. All of this however is simply groundwork to an accomplished, heartfelt and at times sassy vocal performance from Jorja.

Taken from the Project 11 release, which showcases the versatility of Jorja’s vocals on a mixture of mellower (‘So Lonely’ and ‘Carry Me Home’) and more uptempo (‘Imperfect Circle’) tracks. Safe to say this project has definitely been a success in our ears.

L.M.Y.E. – Manhattan

This is a pure dance floor delight. We could leave it at that and let the track play out to justify the accolades it deserves, but that wouldn’t be a DnV post now would it.

The temptingly building and unashamedly 2-step beat coupled with the “ruff ‘n’ tuff” underbelly of the track delivered by the bass line and it’s three note rising motif at the end of each phrase is what really hooked us (the low frequency gluttons that we are). The echoing of that motif in higher octaves, oh and the lusciously striking prominence of the piano that flickers into the frame every now and again, brings this all together spectacularly.

Shanti Celeste’s remix takes ‘Manhattan’ in a lighter direction and feels as though it fits better at the “rising sun in the morning” end of the night out spectrum rather than the “just past midnight ramp up” vibe of the original. Both have their place, both are excellently executed.

Pop to Idle Hands in Bristol to get your copy and thank the label that released this in person.

Sixtus Preiss – Rare Earth [EP]

It’s a ‘Rare Earth’ indeed when we are lost for words, but we really struggled to find the right ones to do justice to this formidable release from the Austrian powerhouse; Sixtus Preiss.

The diversity of sounds and moods that the EP offers is pretty mind blowing. From the aggressive and spacious shuffle step of ‘Common’ to the smooth but somewhat sombre feel of ‘Everything Is Still The Same feat. Kœnig’. You’ll find yourself asking how this musical jigsaw fits together to complete a picture, but you know what, it really does!

The title track and the equally infectious ‘Vitamin’ have been the stand out parts for us. Probably because we’re absolute fiends for a glitchy, squelchy synth coupled with a relentlessly chugging bassline. And who can resist a descending bass bomb and a tropical-esq beat when it’s coupled with a bespectacled nun joyfully dancing in a sun-kissed river.

Go fetch yourself copy and have possibly the most confusing yet fun 23 musical minutes of the year so far. Rare Earth is out now on Affine Records.

Common – Black America Again

In an age of heightened global political tension, divided communities and with the whiff of revolution in the air, it comes as no surprise that hip-hop heavyweight Common has something to say.

His eleventh* studio album ‘Black America Again’ has been crafted from the same cook book as the previous ten with its mix of styles, tempos and collaborations, topped off with a liberal serving of Common’s cleverly considered conscious word craft – this time focusing in the main on the inequalities and injustices currently playing out in the US.

The musical base of this 12 course taster menu (15 if you include the intercourses) is mostly smooth and mellow but the topping is sometimes tough to digest when you ingest the message it seeks to convey. Tracks like ‘A Bigger Picture Called Free’ and ‘The Day Women Took Over’ bubble under with their back room jazz double bass, trumpet breaks and flourishes of flute. Others like title track ‘Black America Again’ are built of sturdier stuff, all striding piano chords and borderline angrily delivered lyrics, eased only slightly by the swelling strings.

The production (courtesy of long time collaborator and tour drummer Karriem Riggins) frames Common’s and the plethora of guest vocalists’ words exquisitely. The album requires at least three straight listens right off the bat; one for the sounds, two for the words and three for the blend of it all. Each time you’ll find something different to latch on to, every time you’ll walk away thinking hard about what’s being said. Essential listening for 2016 given all that is changing in the world.

* Count ’em: 1) Can I Borrow A Dollar? (1992), Resurrection (1994), One Day It’ll All Make Sense (1997), Like Water For Chocolate (2000), Electric Circus (2002), Be (2005), Finding Forever (2007), Universal Mind Control (2008), The Dreamer/The Believer (2011), Nobody’s Smiling (2014), Black America Again (2016)