STR4TA - Aspects (Album Review)
26 March 2021
Album Rating 4 / 5
Favourite Songs Dance Desire, Steppers Crusader, Vision 9
Building from the foundation of a 40-year friendship, linchpin of the UK acid jazz scene Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick and broadcaster, DJ and label owner Gilles Peterson have come together to release their debut record Aspects through their new project – STR4TA. Resurfacing a, somewhat, neglected musical landscape, Aspects channels the 1980s Brit funk scene in which the duo first met, resulting in a brilliantly bubbly and buoyant record.
Tipping their hats to groups such as Atmosfear, Hi-Tension and Light of the World (of which Bluey was a founding member), Aspects feels effortlessly raw and authentic in style – relying more on performative energy than production. Bluey, Gilles Peterson and their collaborators simply fall into a window of the time they became fierce musical forces, emerging out of the jazz-funk underground. However, what is interesting is that the duo manages to simultaneously tap into a distinctive period of music that has passed, but also manage to capture contemporary vibes too. Aspects does not simply hark back to an age gone – it is much more nuanced than that.
Featuring tight, terse drums courtesy of Richard Bull, the opening title-track sets the scene for the record, filled with crossing guitar licks and raw, tumbling sensations. Filled with the dirty slapping bass of Francis Hylton, ‘Rhythm in Your Mind’ presents a tight and continuous grooving force throughout.
Showcasing a more American mood, ‘Dance Desire’ is definitely one of the highpoints, packed with relentless energy and the brilliance of Paul Booth’s flute and sax work, both of which glide in and out of the fore. Slower in style and reminiscent of late crime drama soundtracks, ‘Steppers Crusade’ is another fine moment in the album, which shifts and builds with Brazilian percussive rhythms and soaring synthetic string sounds.
Without a doubt, one of the standout tracks is the album’s finale ‘Vision 9’. Although veering away from Brit funk and more firmly into the fusion sounds of Lonnie Liston Smith, Donald Byrd and The Blackbyrds, the way in which the lines interact is utterly absorbing.
One of the joys which you take away from this record is the sense it was built with love. Love of a scene, as well as a love and respect that Gilles and Bluey feel for each other, a sense so strong that you can almost feel pouring out from the project. When I caught up with Bluey last month, he told me that this Brit funk sound is “not just something in our past, it's something that lives with us, the reason why we love it so much. It's something that we still understand”. Listening to Aspects, you would struggle to argue anything else, as it is characterised by rhythmic patterns and instrumental intricacies which cannot be found elsewhere.
Born out of the pandemic and conceptualised over a coffee in Clissold Park, Aspects radiates the bright powerful energy we all crave, mirroring the past as well as the present. The revival of this raw and wild Brit funk energy, peppered with modern seasoning, creates a jubilant and joyful sound. The effortlessness of Aspects almost certainly demands a follow-up, something in the rumour mill.
You can keep up-to-date with Bluey via his website and socials here:
You can keep up-to-date with Gilles Peterson via his website and socials here: