First Thoughts: Jerome Thomas – Mood Swing Vol 1

With his headline show just around the corner on the 27th of February at the infamous Jazz Cafe, Singer/Songwriter Jerome Thomas released his second EP titled – Mood Swings Vol 1. Having been nearly two years since his debut EP release – ‘Conversations’, this EP has been a long time coming but Jerome has continued to grow since his debut release. With headline shows across London in Bush Hall, Queen of Hoxton, Camden Assembly, Hackney Empire, Notting Hill Arts Club.

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As a listener, its always more exciting listening to an album which has taken a little longer to create than your previous, you’re always going to approach listening to the album with a bit more intent. Especially as Jerome revealed on Instagram, he wants to make music which is timeless. Enthralling a range of emotions within each track from the silky-smooth harmonising tones he displays in tracks such as ‘Bruises’ and ‘Lovesick’, to the quicker, punchy, almost spoken word at times, in the track ‘Loaded’, there’s an element of grace and elegance around Jerome’s delivery.

As a vocalist, he’s one of the most exciting singers the UK, he’s able to enrich a track delicately for it not to become too overbearing but still stand out. Stand out track – ‘Loaded’ sees Jerome switch up his flow to match the up-tempo soulful broken beats pounding, along with the added feature of German based MC – Serious Klein. Another stand out track – ‘The 1’ builds beautifully, as the slow radiating saxophone lays patiently behind, for Jerome’s powerful vocals to shine through.

You can catch Jerome Thomas perform live at the Jazz Cafe on the 27th of Feburary, click here for tickets

Have a listen to the full EP on our spotify below:

 

First Thoughts: Steve Spacek – Natural Sci-Fi

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Lucid, eerie, reflective are just few words which spring to mind when I try to describe this album. There’s a wonderful melancholic feel throughout, which is set from the first track to the last track. Steve Spacek isn’t someone who needs much introduction, as if you’ve read our review of his upbeat experimental 4 track EP titled; ‘EP3: Mvr Clsr, which we were treated to earlier this year then you’ll know a bit about him already! However, this album seems like a long time coming with his last solo album dating as far back as 2005 (which kind of feels weird to say now), but this year has felt like a bit of a rebirth for Steve Spacek. As, in spite a few short killer releases such as ‘Follow Me‘ and ‘Boungie‘ to name a few, the two projects his produced this year have laid a marker of his recent direction and sound.

Something which has remained synonymous from his first solo album to this current album, is his ability to create gentle delicate tones in voice with some range. Those vocals are introduced later on into the opening track which builds a beautiful soothing arrangement around his vocals. Deep Inside channels a similar pattern and mood from the last and maintains the same reflective, dreamy feel. As the album reaches the mid-section, stand out track; Ova (ft Oddisee), shifts the rhythm and tempo into another gear, which succinctly carried over to Carnival Nights. I think the transitions between tracks are what really stand out throughout the album, each track seamlessly blend into each other, a perfect winter album to relax and immerse yourself into a cosmic journey.

Listen and support via bandcamp:

First Thoughts: Waajeed – From The Dirt

Little late to find this one, but most definitely glad I found it! Detroit born and bred legendary producer; Waajeed blessed us with a deeply soulful house 10-track album titled; ‘From the Dirt’. With over 20 years in the game, Waajeed started producing hip hop style beats, using a sampler machine which belonged to well-respected producer; J Dilla. What’s also worth noting is his shift to house and dance floor focused music in recent years, which is testament to his dynamic producing ability. Released through his own label; Dirt Tech Reck, this album follows on from a string of short EP releases starting from 2017.

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There’s an amazing energy throughout the album, accompanied with some beautiful vocal features, consistent brilliant arrangement and a range of colourful percussion washing every track. Stand out track ‘From the Dirt’ opens the journey momentously, as Waajeed creates a captivating soundscape with slow building kicks and an attacking piano rift. The Impactful preachers’ sample in the track ‘I Just Wanna Tell’ decorates a wonderful spiritual house feel throughout, similar to tracks like never grow Old’ from Robert Hood. He’s clever chopping of the preachers’ sample against the growing presence of drums and claps quickly shifts your mood from contemplation to absolute joy, as the drum and kicks begin to take center stage in the track. Waajeed’s mellow, hypnotic sounds in tracks like ‘Strength’ and ‘I ain’t Safe’, blends well with soul singer; Ideeyah accompaniment throughout those tracks.

Have a listen and support via bandcamp below:

First Thoughts: The Expansions – Mosiac

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South London based jazz-funk quartet; The Expansions draw on inspiration from old 70s and 80s funk, meshed with beautiful synths to bring their music to this age. Their recent EP release titled; ‘The Mosiac‘ is gorgeously edgy and filled with astral flow and rhythm. The quartet first grabbed my attention, like many, with the stunning EP titled; ‘The Murmation‘, which showed off their craftsmanship and keen ears perfectly, whilst also catching the eyes from respected music publications such as; Stamp the Wax, The Lonely Table, and The Vinyl Factory.

Check The Expansions live performance of Red Baron below:

*This video is courtesy of The Expansions, and is for promotional use only*

Frontline track; ‘Mosaic’ matches energy and vibrancy from the guitar and keys with the strong, warm drums and bassline throughout. Cohesively working together to form, what develops into an incredibly ethereal opening track with the eerie synthesized keys creating momentous build ups throughout. The following track ‘Transcoso’, winds down the tempo and mood with the slow, soothing synthesized keys setting the pace. Whereas, the closing track ‘Mariposa’ oozes with inspiration from old 70s funk, with tremendous pace and skills from the band’s drummer; Jonny Drop, as well as special mention the lead guitarist James O’Keefe excellently solo mid-way through the track stealing the show. ‘Mariposa’ brilliantly caps off a wonderfully crafted EP.

You can listen and buy via Bandcamp or Juno

Also, check out our updated Spotify playlist, with features recent releases shared on this page:

First Thoughts: Moses Boyd – Displaced Diaspora

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Moses Boyd is an artist who has helped paved the way for London’s young vibrant jazz scene. First catching my attention, like many, with the momentous tracks; ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’ and ‘Drum Dance’, which seemingly gave jazz a new spotlight to work on dancefloors. Building on those single releases, Moses a year later brought us ‘Absolute Zero’, An inquisitive 4 – track EP, which brushed on the inspiration from jazz, as well as incorporating some experimentation with the synthesizer.

Having had a relatively busy summer, with festival appearances abroad and in the UK, Moses has just dropped a 9-track album with collaborations from spiritual jazz group Kevin Haynes Grupo Elegua, as well as UK soul singers’ Zara MacFarlane, Terri Walker, and hip-hop artist; Louis VI.

Kevin Haynes’ influence throughout the album is clear, they’re known for their fusion of jazz instruments and West African Yoruba culture which makes use of rich Bata drums. Opening with incredible track ‘Rush Hour/Elegua’, a quiet intro erupts to a layered hard-hitting synthesised bassline, which is also blessed with vocals from the Kevin Haynes’ Grupo Elegua. ‘Elegua’ is described as ‘the force which makes communication possible between a man and the divine’, and those soft spiritual vocals are felt again throughout the last track ‘Ancestors’.

Another stand out track, featuring Brownswood’s jazz/soul singer; Zara Macfarlane, is ‘City Nocturne’, the delicate careful build of each instrument, starting with saxophone, and the electric guitar creates a smooth transition for Zara’s voice to center stage upon. Zara accompaniment, as well as Terri Walker, wonderfully suits the whole spiritual jazz, Afro-Latin infused theme throughout the album.

Have a listen and support the artist via:

First Thoughts: Barney Artist – Home Is Where The Art Is’

 

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Now, I remember discovering Barney Artist a while back from his stand out track, “I’m Going To Tell You” with Jordan Rakei around a year ago, but never delved into his full discography at the time. Although, having recently read he was planning a full album release this autumn, I wanted to get back in to his music again, and after noticing banging singles like; ‘Rose Thorn ft Dornik’ and ‘Something True’, I was quite excited to hear the album. With two albums behind him, his third album titled; ‘Home Is Where The Art Is’ touches on a few points from his views on women, past relationships, and being optimistic on the future.

Barney Artist cites at UK artists; Kano and Ghostpoet as his main influences, along with,  American 90s hip hop groups’ ‘A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots’, as well, which is recognisable from the general tone throughout the album, as he skillfully raps over jazz and hip hop sampled beats. Barney’s introspective, poignant lyrics perfectly marry with the conscious style of hip hop most prevalent pre-2000s, and I think that candid approach is what has earned his respect. Tracks like ‘Rose Thorn’ show this, where he only expresses an experience he had in past relationship, and cleverly minces his distinctive, bold voice with a poetic styled wordplay which blend well with vibrant guitar melodies. Tracks like “Know him well” written for his younger sister, speaks on guidance and advice for her as she grows and gets in relationships with other people, as well as empowering her to be confident with herself.

The album includes host of successful UK based artists’ towards the latter stages, with features from; George the Poet, Tom Misch, Loyle Carner, Emmavie and Jordan Rakei.

You can support the artist via bandcamp, have a listen below:

First Thoughts: Manga Saint Hilare – Outsiders Live Forever

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East London based grime MC; Manga St Hilaire burst on to the scene with Wiley and Scratchy’s Roll Deep movement, which formed in 2002. Having been part of Roll Deep for over 10 years, Manga has grown a steady well- respected reputation as a grime MC setting himself apart from his peers with not just his context but also his distinctive voice, clever word play, and poetic flow.

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Manga teased listeners leading up to his album release with the lethal rhythm ‘Forever’. The production is immediately recognisable as Wiley’s, as those inflating quick string melodies throughout are reminiscent of Wiley’s eskimo instrumentals, which seem to influence the beats in ‘Forever’ allowing for Manga’s lyrics to take center stage.

Video courtesy of SBTV

Having spent so long in the scene and with a big discography to back him, its difficult to understand why he hasn’t received the levels of attention as some of his peers around. Nevertheless, he continues to portray his truth as he has displayed with this current project; ‘Outsider Live Forever’. Providing the soundscape throughout the album is South West London based producer ‘Sir Hiss’, and in spite being 20 years old, his range of sampled beats and blend of more complex melodies to heavy bass kicks, like with the track ‘Lyrical Thuggery’ is impressive.

Video courtesy of 1Xtra

Those heavy quick tempo beats provide the perfect setting for stand out track ‘True To Me’ featuring Boy Better Know (BBK) members; JME and Frisco. Who all seem to reflect on their journey and rise in the grime scene in their natural flow and style, whilst being able to stay true to themselves. The message throughout the track also acts as a positive message to any emerging artists to be patient and persistent with there craft.
Manga’s poetic style throughout the album seems to reflect his personal introspective view of his journey, and he brilliant sets himself apart from grime MCs with his adaptability to speak on more personal topics.

Listen to Outsiders live Forever via bandcamp and support the artist

First Thoughts: Ratgrave – Ratgrave

‘Ratgrave’ are the duo Max Graef and Julius Conrad. Max, an already familiar music producer, who’s beat making ability and tune selection has already earned him a strong reputation in the electronic music world. Although, he’s latest project with Julius Conrad seems a lot more experimental than previous solo albums, they describe this latest project as electronic p-fusion from Earth

There’s a brilliant rawness which easily combines a futuristic, almost alien like sounds with beautiful rhythmic beats. There isn’t one or a few genres you can pinpoint most tracks in the album to, as jazz, hip hop and psychedelic funk and house from 80s seem to heavily influence this album, under a generally lo-fi production. Moreover, tracks like ‘Iracus’ and ‘Karenn du Renold’ sound like two tracks in one, with the changes tempo mid-way through being so dramatic.

Stand – out track, Blizzard People builds slowly with the heavy echoing kicks forming the basis for various tranquil percussion elements to bounce off. Drawing inspiration from psychedelic house, funk with a Lo-Fi production, as the track develops the tempo of the chords and volume of percussion elements fading in – and – out creating a steady immersive journey.

Listen to full album and bandcamp below:

First Thoughts: Alton Miller – All Things Good

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With the release date going back to the 1st of June, established producer and DJ; Alton Miller’s EP titled ‘All Good Things’ was clearly slept on. Released through electronic music record label Waella’s Choice, who have just surpassed a year since their debut release from artist’ Warren Harris aka Hanna’. Waella’s focus on soulful dancefloor rhythms, have them slowly becoming a firm favourite for us, having already caught our eye with the sonically gifting work from Portable earlier in the year (read here). Which combined the poetic lullaby vocals from the South African group ‘Korus’ with pulsing persistent deep house beats.

And so, with continuing their focus on soulful sounds, Detroit raised Alton Miller’s 5-track EP perfectly follows suit. Growing up in Detroit, he naturally developed his deejaying and passion for house music, eventually taking that further, with the eventual opening of Detroit’s legendary dance club; ‘The Music Institute’ in 1988.
Miller has cleverly created a mood which combines ethereal reflective elements to more upbeat funk-inspired house elements. ‘In the D’ has enough engrossing percussion tones to keep you entertained, as to the backdrop of gentle kicks and claps, the bouncing synths, and persistent bells create a great mood to move any dancefloor.

Whilst, the resonating tranquil synthesised strings and echoing xylophone sounds in the stand out track ‘The Storm’, builds the perfect immersive energy which, along to the sampled empowering spoken word piece makes for an uplifting feel-good track, which would close a set nicely in any nightclub.

You can have listen to the EP via bandcamp:

First Thoughts: Ben Hauke – Only Old

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South London based Producer; Ben Hauke returns with a solo double-sided album titled Only Old, through Latin American influenced label Far Out Records. Having already worked with some incredibly talented artists in previous projects such as; Nubya Garcia and Joe Armon-Jones, this album seems to continue his eclectic sampled based experimentation with sounds which seem heavily influenced by jazz, broken beats, hip-hop and house.

In spite more focus to his live project with Will Petherbridge, under the guise ‘Dam Slo‘, which has seen them play a few shows in London, as well as Birmingham renowned pub ‘Hare and Hounds. ‘Only Old’ seems to revert to Ben Hauke’s previous EPs, like ‘Rough Ready Steady’ and ‘First Takes’ but with percussion instruments familiar to Latin America. ‘Bait – Leo’ displays a perfect combination of that with, harmonious piano chords matched with broken kicks and drums, to high energy cowbells setting pace throughout the track. Whilst, ‘Digi Luv’ featuring Eggrum’s delicate soft vocals, Ben Hauke’s extensive arrangement with soul and depth.

Ben Hauke has continued to show flair and variety to his production with the album, whilst importantly respecting Far Out records message to bring ‘the sound of Brazil to the world’.

Have a listen below and support the artists via bandcamp: