April 9, 2007

Kathy Diamond - Over


Genius is one of those words that gets flung about and ends up bruised for the flinging. There’s always the value gap between labels of praise and the objects they’re stuck on—it’s something that’s too easy to say, and too difficult to be. Or (to mix metaphors), peel the label and you’re left with a sticky residue that gathers dirt. So, having framed and disclaimed Maurice Fulton by implication, let’s just say—it’s really good that such a multi-talented producer has found in Kathy Diamond a vocalist whose chords sympathize with his key qualities. Both the first fantastic All Woman EP and, now, “Over” intimate a collaboration that could see one of the year’s most accomplished syntheses of house, funk, disco and ‘80s-inflected pop.

“Over” harks far further back to its ‘70s roots than the former single, which swung off a slapping bassline and a big funk clap. Here it’s all organs and hall-size reverb, which lend a soaked stage for Fulton to let rip. Diamond’s vocals seem to get a little lost in the “big room”—another sound/effect in the overall instrumental. In fact, whether with or without the vocal, neither mix reaches the heights of the funky lowdown on “All Woman.” Yet between these two singles there exists a range of sounds and directions that begs for exploration and suggests the imminent arrival of something truly great. That’s all I’m going to say.

Permanent Vacation / PERMVAC 008-1
[Peter Chambers]

February 2, 2007

Kathy Diamond - All Woman


Peter Chambers: Maurice Fulton has been at it for quite a while, producing everything between trancey techno, house, dub-disco, electro pop, and jazztronic. What’s so striking though, aside from the effortless versatility of his productions and the musicianship and acute ear he brings to everything his touches, is how much he manages to excavate polished and personal sounding gems from tired genres. Like Hans-Peter Lindstrom, Fulton has a knack for generating space in his recordings. His instrumental versions add to the groove by subtracting clutter, following George Clinton’s edict that “funk is what you don’t play.” This recent EP with Kathy Diamond sends him to the sparkling dub end of space disco, armed with slap bass, fruity keys and mad-isms. Like recent remix work for Hot Chip and !!!, this EP has got a sense of ease to it, and grooves along, propelled by a self-assured succession of reverbed claps, skittering bongos, and wiggling synths. The B-side gets you an instrumental version, which stands equal scrutiny with the vocal cut. Kathy or no Kathy, this is one of the biz’ most talented people, doing their best work.

Nick Sylvester: I first heard this on Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space program a few weeks ago actually. Reminds me of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” though this night does actually last forever, if that makes sense: excessive slapbass, conga accents of the “afro-electro-disco-funk” variety, the heavily FX’d Wurlitzer rhythms, “I came, I saw, I conquered your heart,” etc. Plus Diamond, who is Sheffield-from but London-in at the moment, has legitimate pipes, none of the whispery quote-naďve girlfriend-of-producer stuff that OK yeah I’ve come to like a lot too. Either way, this is a Maurice Fulton production, which means the bass kicks are taut, and the snare clacks and handclaps combine on the twos and fours just a millisecond out of sync. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll be before that multitracked vocal harmony breakdown goes from cheesy-irresistible to merely cheesy, but let’s be fair: not all Rufus breakdowns aged well either.

Permanent Vacation / PERMVAC 005-1

December 1, 2006

Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Zulu Rock

Call it synergy: Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s self-titled third album (repackaged here as Zulu Rock) paired the urgent optimism of the French singer with the sweet, sunny sounds of local South African musicians. Predating Paul Simon’s worldbeat excursions on Graceland, Zulu Rock expanded on the funky Afro/Caribbean flirtations of Mambo Nassau, adding in bits of reggae, French pop, and African highlife, while removing the last traces of the atonal post-punk bite Descloux showed early in her career. Throughout the liner notes of all her reissues on the Ze label, Descloux is described as someone that empathically embraced the culture she was in, whether it be Paris, Manhattan, Nassau, Johannesburg, or Rio de Janeiro. But don’t call it dilletantism, call it an infatuation with music and life. And that’s something inspiring.

CBS Records / Ze Records
1984 / 2006

[Michael F. Gill]

September 22, 2006

Mathew Jonson - Automatic


Mathew Jonson’s EPs don’t contain tracks so much as the blueprint for an evolving arrangement, one that’s only completed once it’s de/re-constructed in his own scorching live sets. He’s one of the few “producers” who, like the blues greats, have to be seen live to be understood properly. If his earlier work blissed out or brooded away on its own beautiful arpeggiating melodies, recent EPs have seen him return to the low-end party with bells on. “Automatic,” very much like “Zombie Bikers” before it, sounds like Zapp and Roger on mushrooms in the sunshine, or maybe Jonson hallucinating about seeing Zapp and Roger in the sunshine, while on mushrooms (ahem). It’s the B side that deserves your hard earned fungi though; it’s a massive expanse (a veritable Jonsonscape) of swirling drums and revolving grooves, turning and turning in and out of itself for nearly twelve minutes, only exhausting itself right toward the very end as it dissipates into the past, like the clouded memories of a hedonistic weekend.

Wagon Repair / WAG 016
[Peter Chambers]