24 February 2023
Album Rating: 5/5
Live Potential: 5/5
Diversity in Songs: 4/5
Favourite Songs: Stand, H.E.A.T., Bless
Groovy goodness dominates the sound of the new EP, These Times, from the wonderful New Sector Movements. It’s an EP that comprises all things jazz, street soul, and hip-hop but it is, at its core, a selection of tracks for the dance floor.
Think summer, never mind spring; think street parties, cans in the park, long days of dancing, and sore legs in the evening. These Times is an EP that lifts you, underscored by expert production that is typical of the group’s founder, IG Culture.
After a 15-year hiatus, New Sector Movements’ latest EP glitters and shines with joy. Alongside IG Culture, These Times features Allysha Joy, Mike City, and Natalie May on sublime vocal duties, with accompaniment from Wonky Logic, Wayne Francis, Alex Phountzi and the NSM Fusion Starship.
The EP opens with its title track and has Allysha Joy’s soulful voice calling out the words, ‘These Times’, while an irregular horn and beat keep the neo-soul groove pounding. It sounds like another classic out of the 30/70 songbook that is so typical of the distinct neo-soul sound of Melbourne, Australia.
‘Stand’ was a personal favourite of mine, which featured Mike City on vocal duties. A gorgeous drumbeat, typical of New Sector Movements’ commitment to the broken beat movement from the late 1990s, opens up the tune before throbbing synths and satisfying horns keep it grooving as a glittering hip-hop-soul odyssey.
It should come as no surprise that New Sector Movements’ latest EP is a classic with IG Culture at the musical helm. His ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the 2019 Worldwide Awards speaks for itself and he has been a general pioneer of the broken beat movement in Britain since the 1990s.
With a wide cast of vocal and productive talent, this EP is another fine chapter in both New Sector Movements' discography and the world of jazz dance.
The third track, ‘Hope’, repeats the words of ‘These Times’ that Allysha Joy calls out and also features NSM Fusion Starship. It feels like a musical sequel to the opening track, a similar vibe is captured but the beat is more regular; it’s a real head-nodding tune with a blissful trumpet solo.
Although there are elements of jazz, hip-hop, and street soul with a Melbourne-London fused sound, it feels most audibly loyal to dance. This makes perfect sense when looking at IG Culture’s CV which contains venues like Fabric and festivals like We Out Here and Amsterdam’s Summer Dance Forever.
This commitment to dance is just as valid in the fourth track, ‘H.E.A.T.’ underpinned by Natalie May’s lyrics: ‘Heat equals movement, motion’. It’s a broken-beat-jazz-infused jam with wonderful horns and gorgeous lyrics - you can’t really ask for more.
The EP reaches its zenith with ‘Bless’: an energetic dance tune with repetitive keys, horn licks, and neat vocal lines. It gradually introduces more elements: funky guitar trills, low piano calls, and more horns, all while Mike City calls out: "bless the people".
Even if you’re not the most avid of dancers, These Times celebrates a general musical joy that sometimes only dance can reflect.
Messages of ‘bless the people’, references to ‘these times’, and enchantments like ‘heat equals movement, motion’ all give off this euphoric quality.
I’ll be playing this one for a while.
These Times was released on First Word Records on 24 February 2023.
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