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: 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: 

First Thoughts: Children of Zeus – Travel Light

Children of Zeus have managed to invigorate Manchester’s already steep music scene, with their cultured steady soulful flow. Manchester haven’t been short of Drum n bass, jungle, bassline producers and MCs with the likes of Strategy, Lenzman, DRS, Chimpo, and Dub Phizix being some of the pioneers in Manchester to champion that sound. However, the duo has been active way before they started their Children of Zeus project, as Lyricist and beatmaker Konny Kon, worked with Manchester based groups ‘The Microdiascs’, and ‘Broken n English’. Whilst, singer/songwriter; Tyler Daley originally came up under the guise ‘Hoodman’ as a lyricist. Their first EP ‘The Story So Far’ seemed to capture elements of older soul, hip hop and Rnb, with a mixture of heavy instrumentals like the tracks; ‘Smoke With Me’ and ‘Happiness’, to more downtempo melancholic arrangements which are shown in their stand out track; ‘Standing still’.

Courtesy of BBC 1 xtra

Building on from their breakthrough EP, Children of Zeus have continued to work with First Word Records to release their first full length album together. The duo kick off the album timely from where they left off, with the aptly named track “The Story So Far…” which quickly captivates your attention as the layered atmospheric kicks and hi-hats immediately scintillate you to attention. Along with the chilling strings over Tyler Daley’s sorrowful hook throughout the song, which perfectly executes the duos depiction of their struggle to get to where they are now. An inspiring message and clever transition from their previous project to current album – ‘Travel light’.

Treated to a host of very talented artists, from highly rate soul singer KSR, to established neo soul artists Terri Walker, as well as a more surprising feature from Drum N Bass MC; DRS, the album doesn’t lack creative influence. The duo haven’t been to afraid to lay down their distinguishable away from hip hop, and jazz sampled beats as well, with tracks such as ‘Hard work’ brings a reggae stylised beats in the production. Whilst their closing track ‘vibrations’ is an 8 min wistful journey of melodic resonating sounds, with the echoing harmonic keys gently easing in Tyler Daley’s hook and the heart pounding off beat kicks pulsating throughout the track. Make for befitting ending to great album.

Have a listen and support these artists via bandcamp

First Thoughts: The Busy Twist – Sunny Side

The Busy Twist have continued to immerse themselves in the African culture to create an EP which brings their own experiences of the UK electronic music, together with the passion and effervescence of African Highlife and Afrobeat.

‘Sunny Side’ represents the first EP release from their newly formed record label aptly named Busy Life Records’ – an ambitious project which aims to ‘tie the dots between West African, South American, Caribbean and UK electronic music’.

‘Sunny side’ opens with a wonderfully lively quick stringed guitar melody, which is recognisable from some Latin house music, however, the main tone is generally Afrobeat; with a lighter, uplifting feel, which is almost befitting of the tracks’ name (Sunny Side). Lead singer Zongo Abongo from Ghana, accompanies the track nicely with a mixture of broken English and a dialect native to north of Ghana, his vocals enrich the track with soul and feeling.

‘Traveller’ excellently follows suit of the last, with additional vocals from Burkina Faso vocalist; Kyekyeku. The Busy Twist stubbornly stay strong to their African highlife influence, featuring similar instruments to the last track, which seamlessly blends the first two tracks together. However, where it differs is the quicker tempo, and free flowing nature of the guitar melody as the track develops, which is reminiscent of work from African highlife artist; Baka Gbine.

Capturing you in a swirling, ambient downtempo groove throughout, is the next track YIRIBA. With additional vocals from Burkina Faso vocalist; Siaka Djarra, carefully riding on the rhythm of the melody. Taking a slightly different turn is their last track titled; ‘Train Soukous’, which steers towards more Caribbean, Latin influences, as the hard-hitting, reverbed vocals make for dreamy, vibrant house track.

Nevertheless, this is EP represents the foundations of The Busy Twist’s work and a sign of bigger things to come from their new label…

First Thoughts: Various Artists – We Out Here

Brownswood seem to be making a habit of churning out some exceptional healing and soulful music. If we cast back to last year releases, from London based jazz influenced singer/songwriter; Zara MacFarlane album titled; ‘Arise’, and Cuban star singer; Dayme Arocena’s album titled; ‘Cubafonia’, you may remember how both vocalist stunningly took center stage throughout their albums, as well as, both using their respective Cuban and Jamaican heritage as influence for their lyrics.

Nevertheless, we moved into the new year with something which anyone interested in the jazz will have been waiting for. ‘We Out Here’ is a culmination of everything exciting about London’s jazz scene, with many artists’ in the album having recently released recognised solo projects of their own, it only seemed foretelling this would be great LP. Featuring artists like Nubya Garcia, Theon cross, Moses Boyd, Ezra collective, to name few.

EzraThis photo is courtesy of Ezra Collective

Opening with the tasteful decadent arrangement of Jazz refreshed members; Maisha’s track, which beautifully opens the LP with a cosmic fluid ride. The gentle flute and abrasive bass clarinet complement each other perfectly, providing a befitting opening to the LP.

The Five-piece band Ezra Collective take over with the track ‘Pure Shade’. An infectious vibrant track with an ever-teasing opening with momentous build up eventually equating to a high energy segment, with Joe Armon on the keys and Femi on the drums almost trying to outdo each other for tempo. That momentum gradually fades into a slow downtempo closing to the track.

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We close the LP on a lighter note to previous tracks with afrobeat collective; Kokoroko’s track ‘Abusey Junction’. Their lead Guitarist Oscar Jerome has been making waves with solo material of his own, with the recent album ‘Where Are Your Branches?’. A befittingly calming end to a predominately high energy and creative LP, Oscar’s finger work on the guitar unassumingly puts you at ease, whilst the trombone and trumpets gently fade in and out throughout the track.

I imagine many of the artist siting early jazz to be their main core of influence, this LP represents how jazz has evolved in their eyes, as they have seemingly drawn upon other influences giving their work more vigor to move dancefloors. This LP can only be telling of the great things to come from these artists in future.

IN Volume 1: Inspired Sound #1

The first in the Inspired Sound mix series from January, representing a soulful underground music inspired sound aims to promote. This mix is a blend of American hip – hop from Saba, Noname and Goldlink, as well as contemporary jazz, broken beat and nu-house influenced tracks. Mixed by Inspired sound editor; Kofi aka Kenobi. Follow us on soundcloud to keep updated with

**TRACKLIST**
Sheigto – Detroit Part 2
Noname – Shadow Man
Saba – There you go
Noname – Diddy Bop
Kaidi Tatham – Mister Seahorse
DJ Nature – Gentle Percussion
Goldlink – Meditation
Mike Steva – Oasis Resolution (Atjazz Remix)
Dego & Kaidi – Decide what we choose
Gwen McCrae – Winners together or losers (K&F Edit)
Maxwell Owin & Joe Armon- Jones – Mind’s Eye
Look (Beyond You) – K15
Shaolin Monk Motherfunk – Hiatus Kaiyote

First Thoughts: Portable presents RANGEr

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Alan Abrahams aka Portable, is an artist very much defined by his past and his journey from South Africa to Paris via Berlin and Lisbon. This journey has seen him develop into a critically acclaimed producer, singer and video artist working with some of the biggest players in house and techno. His latest venture with recently turned record label Waella’s choice, run by Stamp the Wax founder; Aaron Levitt, and Andy Lemay (Dimension Festival), seems to draw upon a range of influences.

Three of the tracks feature South African Capella group ‘Korus’, who effortlessly take center piece with some beautiful native south African vocals. The first track ‘Bazonkonwaba’ is an amazing hazy tranquil piece, with lovely warm synths accompanying Korus’ vocals, giving an a kind of Afro-futuristic influence with heavy use of synths. This afro-futuristic theme is again spilled over in the next two tracks on the first side, (‘Normalizo’ and ‘Indaba’) with the Korus acapella group vocals.

The EP closes with the focus shifting to Portable’s arrangement in tracks ‘Vessel’ and ‘Reset’. Vessel transitions out of the cosmic journey from the first three tracks to an uplifting groovy jazz and funk production. With the wicked bassline riff remaining a constant throughout is reminiscent of some recent indie rock tracks. Whilst the bubbling synths, various percussion and keys bouncing off the electronic funk rhythm, makes the track so easy to nod to. A truly wonderful EP from Portable, definitely someone to keep tabs on if you’re not already, and of course, keep an eye out for any pending releases through Waella’s choice!

You can listen here:

 

New Music: Henry Wu and Earl Jeffers Deliver Short EP Titled; Projections EP

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Earl Jeffers clever sample selection shown through the amazing Gloria EP inspires soulful elements to his predominately deep house tracks. Noteworthy tracks such as ‘Pleasure Signal’ and ‘Gloria’, provide a hypnotic layered bassline along to some gentle beautiful vocals which have become a custom to some of Earl Jeffers productions.

In spite only being 2 track EP, Projections; seems to collide creative free spirit on the Keys with Earl Jeffers heavy soul house influence together excellently. Wu’s skills on the keys are evident in both tracks laid over hi-hats and kick, brilliantly adds flair and vibrancy making it special from other house tracks.

You can have a buy to the Projection EP at Rush Hour records