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March 2020 Single / EP Roundup

Ben has collated the roundup of the best single and EP's to drop from March, featuring releases ranging from jazz, electronic house and techno, afrobeat, RnB, funk, Brazilian and soul music. The following artists feature in this article:

Space Dolphin / The Mauskovic Dance Band / KOKOROKO / Greentea Peng / Emma-Jean Thackray / GoGo Penguin / The Colours That Rise / Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes / Portico Quartet / Space Dimension Controller / corto.alto / Ivan Conti & Grassmass / Yazmin Lacey / Fold

(Click on the links on the artist name and track title to follow artists social media pages and to listen to the tracks)

Space Dolphin - Smoking Kills / Wet Paint (Self-Release, 21 February)

Space Dolphin are a jazz, hip-hop improvisation outfit from Leeds; think 90’s boombap beats, jive ass bass, Tom Waits-esque guitar noodling with a sprinkling of Bill Evans for good measure. 'Smoking Kills' has BADBADNOTGOOD vibes to it as the quartet move to crescendo into the main riff in between the solo sections, a very uplifting feeling with the keys shimmering behind it. 'Wet Paint' has a wonderful synth squelch on the first beat that repeats as the song feels like an extended cut of the first track, in keeping with the same hip-hop vibes but more bouncy with a slightly more jolly psychedelic-jazz vibe to it.

Having been around since 2017, Space Dolphin released an EP Hikikomori in 2018 and have since started to rise through the jazz scene, playing at Eden Festival, Dot to Dot Festival, Hockley Hustle and We Out Here Festival. Things look to be on the up for Space Dolphin and this double single cements their sound and vision for themselves strongly.

The Mauskovic Dance Band - Shadance Hall (Dekmantel, 28 February)

The Mauskovic Dance Band are the brainchild of Amsterdam-based producer and musician, Nicola Mauskovic. The group blend cumbia, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and space disco ready for the dancefloor as they are drum machine and percussion heavy, with a lot of focus on feel rather than hugely leading melodies. The song's on this album feel like a live jazz-electronica performance, with 'Theorie Amerikaan' and 'Venture Phase' providing the most upbeat and groove heavy tunes with the tinges of electronic textures to add nice licks to the end of sections and to fuse in the trippiness evoked through the cover art. Remixes of the 4 tracks on this album will be released on April 17th.

They also released 'Space Drum Machine - Detroit Swindle's Flute Mix' on 13th March which is a delightful tropical bopper that could keep grooving forever, and obviously features a cracking flute addition to keep in tone with a summery vibe to come from this remix and the Shadance Hall EP. The band includes his brothers Donald, Mano and Marnix as well as Juan Hundred, as they have also released on Swiss label Bongo Joe Records in 2017 and on renowned Soundway Records for their self-titled album in 2019.

KOKOROKO - Carry Me Home (Brownswood, 3 March)

KOKOROKO return with their first song since last year's debut EP release and it continues their afrobeat juiciness. The rhythm section's moves ripple through with accentuated reverbed keys and guitar to allow the horns section to play some crisp phrases and solos that drizzle over on top. There are more vocals featured, albeit simple but quite anthemic and summery. 'Carry Me Home' was one of the songs played at The British Music Embassy Sessions that was organised due to SXSW 2020 being cancelled (watch above), and it did not disappoint alongside an equally chilling and beautiful performance of 'Ti-de' from last year's EP.

Greentea Peng - Ghost Town (Different Recordings / TENNNN, 3 March)

Written with Earbuds and Maverick Sabre, Greentea Peng introduces a dub-fused tune to match her spoken-word-like soulful vocals as 'Ghost Town' seems to ring ever true for the current lockdown situation. Despite lyrics 'you can't take my city from me' potentially having different connotations now to when the track was written, the tune evokes a very strong South London sound that has come out from the jazz outfits based in the region of recent times, with the RnB feel of her music still coming through to allow it to sooth on our ears. Her confidence exudes from every note she sings, and I'm sure her debut album whenever it will be released will be a success.

Emma-Jean Thackray - Rain Dance (Movementt, 6 March)

Emma-Jean Thackray's EP Rain Dance on her new label Movementt is a fantastic treat of jazz-funk-house vibes. 'Rain Dance / Wisdom' starts off with some chilling keys before some phat, funky drums and bass envelop around the wailing reverbing trumpet. Thackray then leads the band into a new tempo as the heat increases before the rhythm section provides stabs for the trumpet and drums to solo spectacularly at the end.

'Open' is a a broken-beat jam that follows in the same vain of 'Rain Dance / Wisdom' with it's light keys that really helps you feel 'open' to the funk vibes that lift you up. 'Open (again)' reveals the drum-heavy improv on top of the repeated tuba note that gives the former tune it's broken style as slowly the keys and trumpet enter to make it feel less loose. 'Movementt' has a straight-up Rhythm Section house feel as the bassline sits in with the Thackray's trumpet soloing floating above to take you on an ethereal journey. This ties in nicely with her addition to the Shouts - 5 Years of Rhythm Section INTL release called 'Brand New' as that continues a full house sound.

GoGo Penguin - Atomised (Blue Note / Decca Records France, 6 March)

GoGo Penguin released their first single to come from their upcoming self-titled album to be released in May. Somewhat strange to self-title their fifth album, 'Atomised' offers everything typical from a GoGo song, repetitive piano cadences mixed with delicately timed double bass and strong drum patterns. This song seems quite weak though for a first single release and fails to catch the spectacularity I was lucky enough to witness on their Koyaanisqatsi tour last autumn, but nonetheless it will be intriguing to hear what the album will sound like considering they have had a busy couple of years after 2018's A Humdrum Star release and their large European and festival tour to accompany that, alongside the aforementioned Koyaanisqatsi performances.

The Colours That Rise - Deep Space (Rhythm Section International, 10 March)

London duo Simeon Jones and Nathanael Williams, aka The Colours That Rise, will return later this spring with their debut album after the underground success of their debut EP 2020 released in 2017. Having released the jazz-funk 'Home Time' with their typical electronic swishes and dribbles to match the tight rhythm section in late 2019, 'Deep Space' evokes its title with the feeling of you floating in space to a nu-deep house bassline and programmed drums. The duo's sound is very akin to the Rhythm Section releases you'd expect, a modern take on house and jazz and fusing them together. They also feature Shouts - 5 Years of Rhythm Section INTL with their tune 'Grey Doubt Theme', a cosmic shuffle of drums and arpeggiated synths that beam out like video game music.

Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes - Lift Off // Kyiv (Blue Note Records / Beyond The Groove, 11 March // 25 March)

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes released two more singles from their upcoming Blue Note LP What Kinda Music, featuring Rocco Palladino on the bass again. Both tunes are instrumentals this time and have live videos, as the aesthetically pleasing camerawork moves around the room capturing dancers performing as well as the three musicians. 'Lift Off' cruises through various sections of soloing from Misch with Dayes providing his trademark funk drums alongside Palladino playing around with the main riff and utilising heavier effects on the bass. 'Kyiv' is a fully improvised piece they decided to shoot as they had film left in the cameras, owing to the genius of all musicians as they improvised from Palladino's bass chords. These tunes have set the tone for the upcoming album a lot better so it will be interesting to see how the album works.

Portico Quartet - Trajectory (Gondwana Records, 13 March)

Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet announced a Bandcamp exclusive EP Trajectory, recorded at Metropolis Studios in West London and released as a strictly limited edition of just 400 copies. On November 30th Portico Quartet assembled in front of a small audience as they recorded two tracks direct to vinyl. Mixed live by Liam Nolan and mastered live to vinyl by legendary engineer John Davis the results are astounding offering a fresh insight to the band’s music. The two tracks are Trajectory (a mash-up of two PQ favourites Line and Rubidium that has a n embient jazz feel to it as it loops over and over again) and a live version of the powerful Signals in the Dusk from their last album Memory Streams, the latter with a searing, tenacious sax solo.

Space Dimension Controller is Mr. 8040 from a planet called Mikrosector-50, as his galactic funk takes him to Planète Contraire, a world very much like our own, but one that runs in opposite to the norm. Here he toys with intergalactic Detroit funk and sequenced machines, creating celestial signals of minimalistic, atmospheric boogie. It’s a new course of interconnected, cinematic electro that exists outside of time and yet is apt for moments of timelessness.

On 'Planète Contraire', Mr. 8040’s strain of progressive and unequivocal deep-space disco lends towards his studio competence, with syncopated patterns to match the spiralling synth riffs that fuzz along with the ricocheting hihats as the song increases its powerful low end groove as it continues. On '2 Synths & An 808' , he flexes his machine savviness once more creating a timeless electro-funk rhythm for a timeless, time-travelling pioneer - he noodles around with the drum machine before a scrumptious synth line drops halfway and immediately induces you to move to the beat.

corto.alto - Dying/Floating // Nanakusa (ft. Norman Willmore) // Average Fish (ft. Michael Butcher) // edwin (435 Records, 19 March // 28 February // 7 February / 17 January)

corto.alto, the Glaswegian jazz titan collective led by multi-instrumentalist Liam Shortall, have released more live videos of Shortall's arrangements. Due to the coronavirus situation as well, Shortall has generously offered out all the arrangements' sheet music for people to practice to as they are stuck inside (you legend - find more info about that here). 'edwin' is a remake of Frank Ocean's 'Super Rich Kids' with fantastic downbeat and phat bass solo, and 'Average Fish' continues the superb rhythm section with an in-the-pocket groove before the breakdown allows for a triplet and quadruplet heavy drum solo. 'Nanakusa' and 'Dying/Floating' have excellent features from the guitar section as they bend and loop in combination with the keys, before the sax solos get smashed out to corto.alto's normal high standard of jazz sorcery. We hope for more exceptional live videos to come from vol. 5 after lockdown passes.

Ivan Conti - Katmandu ( Far Out Recordings, 27 March) / Ivan Conti & grassmass - Mexe (Uivo Records, 20 March)

Following on from his critically acclaimed 2019 solo album Poison Fruit, Azymuth’s iconic drummer Ivan ‘Mamão’ Conti returns with Katmandu. Though it was recorded and mixed in the same sessions, ‘Katmandu' was mysteriously omitted by Mamão from the Poison Fruit album, either accidentally or on purpose, he’s not quite sure. What is for sure is that it’s one of the most potent poison grooves of them all, as it ebbs in with the bass and spooky 'oooooohhh' that drifts in and out. The EP includes remixes from German nu-jazz collective Jazzanova, MCDE Recordings & Faces Records’ Pablo Valentino, and Croatian house veteran Eddy Ramich with assistance from Zagreb duo Jan Kinčl & Regis Kattie.

Conti also released a double single 'Mexe' with producer grassmass as he brushes electronica treats in with Conti's constant beat and accompanying rhythm section. 'Soleil' features some sublime alto sax work from Vinicius Rodrigues before the synths repeat with a twisting arpeggio, whilst 'Mexe' is a jazz-funk special that features some disco-inspired guitar from Stephan Feitsma and 80s style keys and synth from Rodrigo Coelho and André Bruni.

Yazmin Lacey - Morning Matters (On Your Own Records, 27 March)

Nottingham-based soul singer Yazmin Lacey presents new EP, Morning Matters. Contributors include Femi Koleoso and Ife Ogunjobi of Ezra Collective on drums and trumpet respectively (Own Your Own, Morning Matters), celebrated pianist Sarah Tandy on keys (Morning Matters), and jazz protege Moses Boyd on drums and production (Lately, Morning Sunrise). The singer pairs candid songwriting with a laidback, graceful delivery and - as the title suggests - Morning Matters is inspired by new dawns and fresh starts and it is one of Lacey's best releases to date.

'On Your Own' is a tasteful bass-led tune that radiates a deep soul vibe; Tandy and Ogunjobi provide a real good flavour in their solos to the title track on the next tune. The mood becomes more upbeat on 'Lately - Interlude' that features a livelier drum beat and atmospheric glow that rides on into the funkier 'Morning Sunrise' featuring some delicate guitar shreds that don't overpower the song's feel. 'Not Today Mate' finishes the EP with light keys that fuse with a house-like bass. Lacey's ability as a vocalist with her soul and RnB style cements her position in the jazz scene as one of the best original singers and hopefully an album release will follow in the next year or so, as she is another example of the talent that has come through Gilles Peterson's Future Bubblers.

Fold - Concrete Things (Seth Mowshowitz, 30 March)

Fold is a Leeds based collective exploring different ways in which narratives & poetry can be woven into music. They aim to honestly reflect the world of today, to speak truth clearly, and to represent diverse perspectives. They have featured extensively on BBC Radio 6 Music as Fold's latest album We’re the Ones is about encouraging a sense of empowerment, understanding and unity among listeners. Musically they've let all of their influences freely commingle, ranging from jazz-funk through Brazilian psyche, hip hop and downtempo. 'Concrete Things' is a tribute to Lorraine Hansberry as it was released in defiance of dark times, with the song exalting the importance of using our cognitive gifts to steer ourselves towards the proverbial light. It is funk-sample tune that grooves infinitely alongside the stuttering vocal sample that acts as its own beat as the horn and woodwind sections flutter in the background.

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