February 2021 Roundup
Updated: Mar 4
Ben has collated a roundup of some of the most exciting releases to drop in February, featuring records ranging from jazz, lofi indie, hip hop, R&B, soul, ambient, electronica, funk, samba, afrobeat, techno, highlife and disco music. The following artists feature in this article:
Puma Blue / Voilaaa / Tamil Rogeon / Raquel Martins / Akin Soul / Lion's Drums / Phil Dawson ٤-tet / Lara Jones / Frederic Robinson (feat. Richard Spaven) / Little North / Antonio Neves / Nicola Cruz / Jas Shaw / Adrian Younge
(Links to artists' social media and the records are found on the artist name and release title)
Puma Blue (Jacob Allen) has been on the JR radar for a long time now and of course, his debut album was going to deliver big time. The silky lofi and sexy late-night jazz chords soften your ears but when the mood changes, they can quickly pierce through into your mind and you share that feeling of rawness in emotion from Allen's voice and music, heard no better than on 'Velvet Leaves'. 'Already Falling' is a gentle crooner whilst 'Oil Slick' has an infectious urgency to it - check out the beautiful 'Is It Because' too.
Voiciii is the 3rd album from Voilaaa, an immersive dip into the Afro-Disco universe curated by producer Bruno 'Patchworks' Hovart. Pat Kalla and Lass collaborate again with Hovart as they pay homage to Fela Kuti on the juicy electro fused 'Water No Get Enemy' and Manu Dibango on the saxophone leading 'Manu Écoute Ça' and 'Tenor Jam For Manu'. 'Fighting Slowly' has a wonderful guitar lick and 'Assia' is one of the funkiest dancefloor-friendly tunes on the album - all the above was expected from a Voilaaa LP and we're glad to have fresh tunes that will sound booming in live venues once they open again in the summer.
A soaring and celestial new album Son Of Nyx comes from Melbourne violist / violinist / composer Tamil Rogeon. Often both instruments are overlooked in their role in the jazz scene but Rogeon channels Jean-Luc Ponty and Stéphane Grappelli to spectacular effect. 'House No Wheels' has a soft jazz-funk feel to it as I imagine I could hear this at a summer festival in a breezy heat and it would blow me away. The synth in 'Momus' is just amazing and complete captivates you, and 'Horns No Eyes' has you dancing and jiving away to it. The tinges of spiritual jazz throughout make this an absolute cracker worth checking out.
The new single 'Freedom' from London based Raquel Martins is a fabulous treat of neo-soul chilling. I knew this song was going to bang when I heard the trumpet kick in at the beginning, trickling over the stabs as the bass sits in beautifully going into the verse. Her vocals are so strong and take charge despite the wonderful instrumentation throughout that draws your attention, like with the subtly delightful synth spirals. The lyrics of 'freedom come my way' nicely foreshadows what we all hope will arrive this summer - and this song should be one of the first to play when the sun shines bright.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist Akin Soul has dropped his newest single 'Burning Fire', a great composition of emotive soul backed by chunky bass and a scorching organ that cuts through wonderfully. It sounds like Akin has been doing this for years, as the change in sections to a funk breakdown with the horns phrasing amplifying the disco guitar that slings through is astounding. It is without a doubt Akin is one to watch in the future, and definitely, someone who could emerge into the mainstream music scene with his commanding vocals.
Marseille producer and Biologic Records head honcho Lion's Drums releases an album that presents the culture and community of the Kagabas who are indigenous people living by Santa Marta mountain in Colombia. The LP combines songs, field recordings of the village and the surrounding nature, and studio compositions as singing is a way for the Kagabas to pass memory, knowledge and awareness down through generations and live in peace amongst the animals in their environment. Lion's Drums agreed to have singing at the core of this musical project as all benefits of this release go to the Nativa organization to support its fight for the replanting of trees and getting land back that the Kagabas are involved in. 'Alouatta (hembra)' exemplifies the power of the Kagabas singing, whilst 'Deer' is the most intriguing composition that has extra oomph added in the studio to amplify the energy of the vocals. Read the interesting bio on the Bandcamp link to the album above to read more about the Kagabas project.
Established London guitarist Phil Dawson releases a mini album of Afro-jazz, improv, deep grooves and spoken poetry. The different cuts of 'It's Time' and 'Gnostic Hilife' offer really good interpretations of the same songs, with 'Flute Edit' of the latter particularly special with Rowland Sutherland featuring on a crazy flute solo. The 'It's Time - Fully Spoken' journeys into different styles and moods with ease, as it's clear the influence of artists that Dawson has played with over the years like Hugh Masekela, Tony Allen and Mulatu Astatke have had on his playing.
Recorded during a late-night session at Eiger Studios in Leeds, the A Piano At Night performance by saxophonist and composer Lara Jones combined a solo-piano performance with visuals which created an immersive sensory experience. Slow repetition, notes echoing endlessly until the next finger lays down on the key for the next one, an enduring mysteriousness and soft, gentle improvisations all feature on this incredibly intimate piece of composition. It's no wonder Jones' talent has made her recipient of Help Musician’s UK’s Peter Whittingam Jazz Award, Jerwood Arts Jazz Encounter Fellow and Manchester Jazz Festival’s Level Up. This is one to completely relax to; she had this to say about the record:
During the days I’d be working hard on learning jazz and techniques on my saxophone, studying hard, listening and playing music in this incredibly intense way that you do at music college. But the nights with the piano, they gave me space away from all the rules and trials and tribula9ons, it gave me a chance to connect with sound, knowing that most people were at home sleeping and I could just play whatever and however I wanted. There was something special about doing this on the piano.
It's difficult to find any tracks that Richard Spaven's drumming doesn't sound out of place on, and it doesn't end here with this new collaboration with German electronic producer Frederic Robinson. Robinson's musical style has similarities to Philip Glass and Steve Reich as his intricate touches that create acoustic and manipulated textures merge superbly with the subtle drumming of Spaven which magnifies different stabs and patterns. The soft surging motif from the synth that comes out towards the end of the song sounds magnificent in contrast to the synth playing the bassline, an overlap of phrasings that illuminate the groove of the song fantastically.
Melancholic soundscapes are rich and beautiful in the new Little North album. Hailing from Denmark, the trio brings the minimalist, Scandi sound through into seamless compositions that sound no better than on 'Anna' - an atmospheric journey featuring surreal strings that traverses into a poignant improvisation that surges out at the end. 'Invoke' has great dynamic depth to it as the off-kilt stabs creates constant energy before turning into poetic buildup that draws the song to a close. Classic Nordic jazz but achieved with modern brilliance.
From samba and bossa nova through to baile funk, with carioca expressions of jazz, rock and hip hop in between, multi-instrumentalist Antonio Neves new LP is the quintessential listen to hear the sound of Rio de Janeiro. A sensational cover of 'Summertime' is jazz-rock at its finest, whilst emerging talents Alice Caymmi and Ana Frango Eletrico feature respectively on the pacey and chaotic Candomblé rhythms of 'Noite de Temporal' and the Jongo Afro-Brazilian 'Luz Negra'. A great repertoire of songs that build on his 2017 debut record.
A new EP out on Rhythm Section sees Ecuadorian producer Nicola Cruz present tracks tied together by a lucid psychedelic thread. The title track blends Cruz's love for percussion and mixes it with acidy chugging, and 'What Now' moves from minimalism to an expansive electronic sound in a Latin feel. The tribute to North American percussionist Ray Barretto, who was part of the golden age of La Fania, is a dark mixture of techno and springy percussion that jumps off the linear drum machine patterns; this track compels the urge to be out in the clubs as soon as possible.
The first EP in a trilogy that will form one whole album, Simian Mobile Disco's Jas Shaw has created deep ambient compositions from his home where he had to stay in real isolation due to the high risk of his health problems. Recording all the music in one room without the luxury of spending time away, Shaw combines different new age, gauzy vapourwave, pointillism, post classical, minimalist nocturnes, cosmic symphonia and 4D kosmische into his soundscapes. The electroacoustic nature of the EP traverse the different feelings of emotions Shaw felt, and 'Sollbruchstelle' has some beautiful piano modulations that present these vulnerabilities. 'Become the scenic route' has softer and more uplifting edges to it as the sounds brighten, whilst 'It turns into a she' reflects a deeper, intense chasm of melancholy. Certainly for fans of Gigi Masin, Harold Budd, Raymond Scott, Global Communication, Laraaji, Mika Vainio and Múm.
Adrian Younge releases his latest solo LP that examines the systemic and malevolent psychology that afflicts people of colour in America. Elaborating over spoken-word interludes and soulful tracks backed with funk rhythms sees a study of the relationship between black and white Americans that aims to restore pride and inspire people of colour through understanding the prevalence of discrimination that continues with racial issues. The record bears resemblances to the works of Gil Scott-Heron, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye and countless other black American musicians throughout history that have educated listeners through musical performance on the subject of racism and how it feeds into wider social and political matters, with the lynching on the album cover here depicting the reality of our past failures in treating people of colour with respect and dignity. The album has an accompanying short film, 'T.A.N', and 4-part podcast series, 'Invisible Blackness'.