Roots Manuva – Bleed (Big Dada) Now on album number seven, if you exclude his top class dub albums, Roots Manuva has spent two decades developing a distinctive and equally inventive Hip Hop style that rarely drops in quality. Bleed is dark and introspective in a thoughtful, considered manner with the sort of self-reflective lyrics you’d put down to age and maturity if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve always been at the forefront of what makes Roots Manuva great. In lesser hands this would be a disjointed release, jarring between the lush production of ‘Fighting For?’ and the hyperactive, Four Tet produced ‘Facety 2:11’, though thankfully not here as pacing and Roots’ dexterity keep the flow. Check out ‘Facety 2:11’ here.
Mad Professor and The Robotiks – Black Ark Classics in Dub (Ariwa) This is a simple concept executed with the kind of aplomb that really couldn’t, shouldn’t, and possibly wouldn’t be expected of it. Taking the best cuts laid down by Dub Reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the modern Dub master Mad Professor has remixed and spliced together a Dub album to rival anything released with Scratch’s name on it in the last ten years or so. While some tracks stay relatively true to their source material like ‘Zions Blood pt.2’, others like ‘Cornbread Dub’ play so fast and loose as to be real revelations. While Dub can often be wildly chaotic, this set is minimalist and stripped and all the better for it. It’s testament to the OGs, and a real showcase of Dub. Check out ‘Cornbread Dub’ here.
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) – As If (Warp) The transition from Punk-influenced, Indie Disco champions to fully formed Dance act is now complete. Direction now well established, bubbles of Deep House are able to establish their presence within an overall Disco package that leans as much towards Chicago as it does New York. All told, the album title may end up foreshadowing some critical responses as ‘Bam City, the weakest track, is the only to prominently feature guitar. On the other hand, the highlight, ‘I Feel So Free (Citation Needed)’ reflects the bands place on the Warp roster with its 4/4 kick, Funk-bent, and sights on the dancefloor. Check it out here.
Rudimental - We The Generation (Asylum) With five singles released over the last six months it’s perhaps unsurprising that Rudimental topped the UK album charts with the release of this, album number two. Perhaps more surprisingly, they’ve left plenty on the album with big name vocalists like Dizzee Rascal, Ella Eyre, Ed Sheeran and Lianne La Havas making repeat appearances. Recorded partly in Jamaica, there’s some Bossa flavour alongside the Dance Pop focus, as well as a guest-spot for reggae legend Max Romeo. The highlight however, is saved for the late, great Bobby Womack on the funky ‘New Day’. Check it out here.
John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (Bella Union) While blunt, revealingly personal lyrics are a bit of a forte for John Grant, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is a coming-of-middle-age album that steps up the frankness of his lyrics while allowing in the occasional hint that things might not be that bad after all. Continuing in an electronic vein, Grant’s latest takes its title from the literal translation of the Icelandic for midlife crisis and the Turkish for nightmare. The two parts form a suitable descriptor of both the stark honesty and the moments of driving electronics contained within; combined they create a strange amalgam of buoyant liveliness that’s hard not to revel in. Check out ‘Disappointing’ feat. Tracey Thorn here.
Songhoy Blues - Music in Exile (Transgressive) While the story of members of Songhoy Blues fleeing persecution is both dramatic and moving, it is no more so than the music contained within this superb debut. Steeped in the traditions of both ‘Desert Rock’ and Malian Songhoy traditional music, this is a youthful and exuberant record that showcases Blues Rock musicianship at its best. Picking highlights between the full paced tracks like ‘Irganda’ and the slower ballads like ‘Mali’ is unthinkable when each and every one perfectly exemplifies the percussive nature of Blues Rock; a quality that’s so often ignored. Check out the video for ‘Al Hassidi Terei’ here.