Review: Cruising nice and easy into earshot on the Smokecloud imprint, byDesign and Osmose take a side each in chopping up some choice old classics with a tender touch to work in modern contexts. byDesign gets the whole A-side to roam over with a version of Diana King's cover of the Bob Marley classic, "Stir It Up", working on a 90s flavoured hip hop groove and dubby cuts of King's vocal. On the flip, Osmose is having a lot of fun working on Alexander O'Neal's "Fake", keeping the tough beat intact and instead letting the effects bring in the changes. While the origin of the last track on the 12" is undetectable at this point, "Slomo Tattoo Dubbed" comes on like a prime slice of Balearic goodness, packing easy horn blasts, funky guitar licks and a whole lot of filter action.
Review: Jane, Roberto, and Sidey Morais - Brazil's Os Tres Morais - are placed alongside the wonderful Claudia for the latest all Brazilian showdown courtesy of the always point-side Brazil45 series from the Mr. Bongo label. The latter gives us the mythical "Garra", a tune that sits very nicely next to the likes of Marcos Valle and co, and the singing trio get a reissue of 2006's "Freio Aerodinamico", a gorgeous blend of samba, disco, and something perfectly exotic and vintage. Heart-warmers.
Review: Rob Luis clearly enjoys an unlikely but inspired cover version; over the years, his Tru Thoughts imprint has served up surprisingly good funk, jazz, reggae and brass band covers of everything from Roni Size's "Brown Paper Bag" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing", to Max Sedgley's "Happy" and the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that Luis snapped up this vibrant South American cover of the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict A Riot" by Brazilian MPB revivalists Carolina Lins and Os Plantos. It's truly brilliant, with Lins' bold Portuguese vocal simply soaring over the band's samba-soul groove and fuzzy horn lines. As cover versions go, it's a bit of a doozy.
Review: Cuba's Manana Records launches via a fine EP from Obbatuke, a eight-piece rumba outfit fronted by renowned quinto player Carlos Guerra. The band are apparently regulars at the legendary Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba, a venue widely considered to be the beating heart of the Eastern rumba scene. Musically, the five tracks here mix typically high tempo, densely percussive rumba rhythms with chanted vocals. The lack of other musical instruments is startling, but takes nothing away from the tracks. In fact, it only enhances their back-to-basics charms. It proves beyond any doubt that it's the drums that make great dance music.
Review: You can always rely on 5 Borough Breaks for some top shelf hip hop. The label's latest missive is a legendary one from O.C. - "Time's Up" is a rousing, hard hitting beat with an even tougher verse that rides on the booming kicks. It also samples Les DeMerle's "A Day In The Life" which just so happens to be pressed on the flip and yes, it is in fact a cover of The Beatles. Here though, it becomes a stirring big bang jazz cut that forms an impressive wall of retro sound that will inject realness and rawness into any party. Like always with this label, quantities are limited so move fast to get your fix.
Review: Last May, Tal released On Mande, the second album from traditional Kenyan combo Ogoya Nengo & The Dodo Women's Group. As the title suggestions, On Mande Versions sees their percussive workouts being remixed by a quartet of electronic music talents. Lena Willikens turns "Orutu Run" into a mid-tempo, tribal techno chugger, while Tolouse Low Trax re-imagines as "Mix Zwei" as a spaced-out Afro-dub masterpiece. Orson's more floor-friendly version of "Bunde Dub" continues on a similarly steppy, bass-heavy tip, leaving Berceuse Heroique regular Don't DJ to steal the show with a thrillingly weird and out-there rework of "Sorbe Pekingese".
Review: Late last year, French imprint Chuwanag launched via a fine compilation exploring the early '80s Britfunk sound (think jazz-funk and electrofunk) in impressive detail. You'll find numerous aural nods to that style on this follow-up, a fine debut single from producer Koji Ono. Check, for example, the sparkling synthesizers, hustling guitars and house-tempo jazz-funk grooves of "So High", the wiggly Clavinet lines, whistling melodies and rubbery bass of "Inner Rhythms" and the luscious, misty-eyed warmth of ear-pleasing mid-tempo instrumental jam "Momoshima". All are exquisite examples of revivalist cuts that boast more than enough freshness and impeccable instrumentation to bear comparison to the records that inspired them.
Review: Delicious timeless soul from Finnish crooner Oroza. Originally released in 2016, "This Love" hums with a Faze O style sunset haze that could melt the stoniest of hearts. "Should I Take You Home" plays the consummate foil on the B. A cover of Sunny Ozuna, there's such a smooth, arresting bluesy feel that runs throughout you kinda want him to take you home even though you've got a perfectly pleasant abode yourself.
Review: Make way for Orquesta Akokan, an exciting new Havanan big band cross-generational troupe led by Jose Gomez. Digging deep into their island's rich Latin soul with an ageless fusion of instrumentation and physical rhythms, "Mambo Rapido" is a tribal piece of work where Gomez's spitfire commands go toe-to-toe with firing jazz pianos and wily flutes. "Un Tabaco Para Elegua" deconstructs a classic cha-cha and rebuilds it with subtly theatrical layers. A full album is due imminently...
Review: Since springing back to life last year, original disco-era funk label Al & The Kidd Records has delivered a string of fine singles featuring previously unheard cuts from the Washington D.C-based imprint's seemingly bulging vaults. Their latest must-have 45 features two delights from Michael Orr, an obscure funk/soul artist best known for his 1975 collaboration with Casey Harris, Spread Love. In fact, B-side "Afterawhile" - a sumptuously loose and laidback affair featuring some superb keyboard solos from Orr - is taken from that sought-after set. Arguably even more thrilling, though, is A-side "Wonder Woman (Super Lady)", a previously unreleased, synth-heavy space funk jam recorded in 1983.
Review: Samba flavours do not come more authentic than this. The sixth in Mr Bongo's Brazil 45 series, here they unearth two foundation pieces from Rio collective Os Origianais Do Samba. Forming in 60s Rio, they're still highly active today and have a discography peppered with Brazilian gold. This 45 does well to showcase their breadth... "La Vem Salgueiro" is quintessential samba. Heavy rhythm, punctuated vocals and a dynamic that leaps from bold and delicate in a flash, it charms you instantly. "Tenha Fe" has a softer soul as it strums and sways and more of a folky sensation, tight harmonies and alluring naked instrumentation.
I Found You (feat Dezeray Dawn - Sol Power All-Stars remix) (6:39)
Last Call (5:47)
Anyway (feat Yemi) (4:23)
Review: Osage is the alter ego of veteran Philadelphia dj/producer lil'dave. A member of the highly respected Illvibe Collective and the co-host of the internationally known broadcast Eavesdrop Radio, he has released music under various aliases for record labels. BBE Records, Tru Thoughts, Record Breakin' Music and First Word Records to name but a few. His sound incorporates deep house, African rhythms, UK garage, broken beat and much more. Over the years, he has been building a solid reputation, with his tracks supported by notable tastemakers such Gilles Peterson. This 12" compiles four favourite moments from the two EPs that Osage has released thus far on the Brooklyn based Bastard Jazz - who have previously presented works by Soul Clap, Phil Gerus and Dead Horse Beats. From the deep, sexy and soulful house of "I Found You" (feat Dezeray Dawn ) to the spiritual Afro vibe of "Last Call" and the rather Bugz In The Attic sounding "Anyway" (feat Yemi) - this is a solid release.
Review: ** REPRESS ALERT ** Two luscious soul/folk/psychedelic funk crossover jams from American singer-songwriter Shuggie Otis are reissued and remastered 45 years after their first release for Record Store Day 2019. Equal parts groovy, dreamy, organically introspective and futuristic, "Inspiration Information" is the document of a young man who owns his inspired vision completely. We are particularly loving "Aht Uh Mi Hed" on the flip where filtered keyboard sounds blend with effortlessly graceful strings during the middle dream sequence of the track.
Review: Seminal cosmic afro record from 1976, this Mancuso staple regularly passes hands for triple figures and has been bootlegged (badly) many times over the years. Here we find the deeply spiritual and reasonably prolific troupe in all their glory. Mystic, restrained, paced and laced with an insistent almost hypnotic Buddhist mantra. "Anambra River" takes us six years closer to the floating crystal city of Budatan, shire of West Heaven with a Morricone sense of drama and emotion. Unleash your inner hippie.