Archives for posts with tag: Inner City

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





Album Review: Devotion, Jessie Ware, August 2012 (Universal Island Records)

Jessie Ware is a UK-based vocalist who, before this album’s release, performed vocals with SBTRKT, a.k.a. UK DJ and Producer, Aaron Jerome. Her debut album, Devotion, stands astride both the pop and electronic genres, serving up a variety across its eleven full-length tracks. Her voice is versatile as well. She uses it differently across the tracks, projecting more on some than others.

Although the pop and R&B influenced tracks on this album are good, Devotion’s best moments are those that are carried by electronic beats and synth melodies. “110%” and “Running” in particular are more readily accessible on early listens and will have a longer staying power. “Sweet Talk” is a R&B/dance cross-over that works well: early Mary J. Blige meets Inner City.

Of the more conventional tracks, “Wildest Moments” is a hit, featuring the strength of Ware’s vocals and a tribal drum backbeat that will play well on the radio. But like most pop songs, it will shine brightly and fade quickly.

Unlike other solo albums I’ve reviewed of late, the star here is not the vocalist or even the songwriter. Instead, the producers win the day. Dave Okumu, Julio Bashmore, and Kid Harpoon are noted as the Production team. Of the three, it is likely Bashmore’s influence on the electronic-centric tracks that will make this album memorable.