Thursday, June 19, 2014

Album Review: Al Dobson Jr. - Sounds from the Village Volume 1 (2014)

South London DJ/producer Al Dobson Jr certainly gets around. It seems he's everywhere at the moment – with two brand new album releases and a couple of high profile Boiler Room sets behind him, along with the buzz being generated by the heavyweight likes of Mixmag, XLR8R, FACT, and Resident Advisor, he's very much a man of the moment.

Fresh from dropping a curtain raiser for the fledgling Rhythm Section International label, an album called Rye Lane Volume One, we get this one, Sounds from the Village Volume 1, a second full-length release, this time on Kutmah's IZWID imprint. There were 2013 collaborations with Creole - on the experimental Japanese-themed Japan Project - and Tenderlonious - four tracks on a shared release, and it’s fair to say Dobson Jr’s current profile and status as a genuine up and comer is hard earned and well deserved.
Quite often these new releases come with promo blurbs so far wide of the mark it renders them rather pointless, but IZWID's own description of Dobson Jr's album nails it in a way that almost makes this review utterly superfluous. I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe what we get on Sounds from the Village than … “cosmic vocal rips and a myriad of loose, soul-infused beat tape-style sketches with its digital flourishes”…

Each and every one of those sample-licious “vocal rips” blend beautifully with the bass-centric rhythmic foundations underpinning everything else, while those “digital flourishes” consist of loops that glisten with washes of warm synth and a host of other glitchy bits and bobs. This is one part soulful-5am-vibe, and two parts dirty funk leftovers, with a sense of pure decadence right at its core.

After an opening couple of minutes (and tracks) so laid back they’re practically horizontal, the highlights start to emerge, and it’s an album that steadily builds in momentum to become a rich and warm listening experience.

The production from label guru Kutmah and Dobson Jr himself is pristine, and as is the IZWID way, Kutmah contributes wider design and cover art, which LA-based collective HIT+RUN will hand-print on a chipboard jacket … (er, not quite sure how that works, but obviously this is for vinyl only copies and not something you’ll get with a download or anything … which I sincerely hope goes without saying!).

The best tracks here are ‘Dunza Blues’, ‘Maiysha’, ‘Sensi Block’, ‘Work Together’ and ‘Tomorrow’, but even some of the shorter tracks, some of the more experimental half formed ideas resonate in a way they probably really shouldn’t.

So if I have a small criticism it’s exactly that. Some of these tracks do actually feel slightly less than fully formed – just as they’re warming to their task they abruptly expire and we’re immediately onto the next way-too-short groove. I get that sometimes less is more, but equally, with vibes this good, sometimes more is also more. The entire 15 track album is over in a tick over 33 minutes, so it is fairly short by album standards.
Then again, perhaps that’s part of its charm. If brevity is the source of any genuine frustration, why not just flip it over or press “repeat play”? …

And also from IZWID, there’s this little beauty, Seven Davis Jr doing Prince’s 'Controversy', this has been out six months or so now, but it’s a freebie download so you know what you should do …

Al Dobson Jr Boiler Room DJ Set:


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