thu 23/11/2017

CD: Jabu - Sleep Heavy | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jabu - Sleep Heavy

CD: Jabu - Sleep Heavy

Bristol's sad, broken soul keys into a new weird R&B

Jabu: Bristolian and very much of the now

One of the more interesting developments of this decade is a blurring around the edges of modern soul music: almost a complete dissolution, in fact, of the boundaries of R&B. From the hyper-mainstream – Drake, The Weeknd, Future – via Solange, Frank Ocean, Blood Orange and Sampha, to fringe experimentalists like Atlanta's Awful Records, international Afro-diasporic collective NON and UK one-off Dean Blunt, R&B is being remade as dark, unpredictable and unsettling.

It's into the weirder, gloomier end of this territory that Bristol trio Jabu fit with discomfiting comfort. They come out of the Young Echo collective, which has produced everything from techno to grime to crackling noise, and they're signed to Blackest Ever Black, which one might broadly call a gothic electronica label. Their sound is certainly Bristolian, inasumuch as it harks back to Massive Attack at their most nervy and rarefied, and also to little-known trip hop era experimentalists Earthling. It also has a deep strand of Eighties pop experimentalism: in the delicacy of the production and the willingness of Alex Rendall and Jasmine Butt to explore the edges of their vocal ranges, you can hear Talk Talk, The Associates, Japan, Cocteau Twins.

But for all these past references, and for all that Amos Child's hazy production eschews hyper-modern digital signifiers for old drum machines and layered fuzz, it sounds very much of the now. This is sad, broken transatlantic soul music in the same way that The xx and James Blake are, and one could imagine US producers picking up on it in the same way they have the latter. It's a baffling album in some ways – the very haziness that gives it its character can make song structures hard to discern. It's worth close attention, though: when it gets into its smoky groove, it's got a special character all its own.

In the delicacy of the production and the exploration of vocal ranges, you can hear Talk Talk, The Associates, Japan, Cocteau Twins

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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