Archives for posts with tag: Domenic ‘Ski’ Oakenfull

Album Review: Crackazat, Rainbow Fantasia (Local Talk Records, 2017)

I came to know of Crackazat (a.k.a. Sweden-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jacobs) because of “What You’re Feeling,” a single released on Joey Negro’s Z Records label last year. It had a driving old school house vibe, kind of like Inner City and also reminded me of Lone’s excellent 2014 album, Reality Testing (R&S Records).

Jacob’s new album, Rainbow Fantasia, is more synth-centric than the Z Records single and, being a full length record, offers a range of mood and sound. On most cuts, Jacobs serves up synth melodies, vocalizations and driving dance rhythms.

On constant repeat for me since I discovered this album is the opening track, “Welcome Speech.” It has multiple hooks and showcases the most freewheeling keyboard work on the record. The opening vocal sample evokes ‘a timid emcee at a meagrely attended yoga gathering’ and gives the track kitsch, which makes it all the more addictive.

Among the uptempo tracks like “Sundial” and the title track, Jacobs includes some variety in the trance-like vibe of “The Only One” and the vocals on “Holding You Close.”

I have to admit, the magic of electronic music fades a little as I learn more about the tools that make it easier and easier to produce. This tutorial in particular, by Incognito collaborator and celebrated producer, Ski Oakenfull, is very revealing for a non-musician like me. Oakenfull is a highly talented keyboardist in his own right and this video was produced as a demonstration of the technology, rather than a glimpse into his creative process. Still, the technology makes one wonder if some producers will favour it over musicianship.

With this peak behind the curtain, it is tempting to judge Crackazat as machine music without soul. But that is ultimately up to the listener. For me, Jacobs brings the melody, the beats, and perhaps most distinctively, a dose of fun to Rainbow Fantasia.

 

Related Listening:

I Can See the Future” – Incognito, No Time Like the Future (Mercury Records, 1999): One of my many favourite Incognito tracks, featuring Ski Oakenfull on drum programming and keyboards

 

 

 

 

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Album Review: Leap of Faith, Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick (Shanachie, March 2013)

imagesTo die-hard Incognito fans like me, the news of co-founder and premier songwriter Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick’s debut solo release came with some cautious optimism. Optimistic because Bluey is a brilliant songwriter and producer. Cautious because without his usual cadre of Incognito collaborators, I wondered what would be left behind.

Stylistically, the album has a fairly broad range, from R&B tracks like “Take a chance on me” and “Keep myself together” to “Live like a millionaire,” a fun-filled ode to the Isley Brothers’ “It’s your thing.” Bluey even uses spoken word in the title track, telling Nelson Mandela’s story through verse, overtop a heavy bass groove. My favourite track, however, is “If you really wanna,” laden with breezy acoustic guitars and vocals.

The first single, “Got to let my feelings show,” is an uplifting and danceable track, driven by syncopated synth lines from  Domenic ‘Ski’ Oakenfull. Oakenfull, a former Incognito keyboardist, also lends his production chops to “Ain’t nobody’s business but my own,” the most electronically influenced track in the collection.

The vocals Incognito fans have come to expect accompanying this calibre of songs are normally delivered by spectacular talents like Maysa Leak, Tony Momrelle, and more recently, Natalie Williams. Bluey’s vocals are not as distinctive or powerful but that’s hardly a criticism. Making his ‘leap of faith’ to put this record out, you have to give it to Bluey for trying something outside of his tried and true formula for success. His vocals, though unfamiliar at first, emerge into an authentic style that Maunick and his fans can embrace.

Stepping outside of the Incognito umbrella, Maunick has remained whole and revealed something new. Leap of Faith is a remarkable outing from a legend in jazz-funk and R&B who proves again he is an endless source of great songs and satisfying grooves.