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BLACK FOCUS

Swarvy

Sunny Days Blue

    Philadelphian multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer SWARVY makes his solo debut on Kamaal Williams's imprint Black Focus with a stunning new EP entitled ‘Sunny Days Blue’, his first release as the primary vocalist. Smoked-out sound beds and lofi guitars sit gently with SWARVY’s voice, creating a juxtaposition of melancholic, yet sweet, melodies that loop in your mind’s ear long after the record stops spinning.

    ‘Bones’ opens with a stripped back rhythm section and existential observations referencing the human condition of overthinking, a recurring theme throughout the EP. ‘Cool’, ‘No Compute’ and ‘Smile’ subtly infuse jazz, funk and hip hop elements, while ‘New Moon’ plays out as a low slung hypnotic hymn echoing gracefully into the record’s closer ‘Ginger’ - a meditative ambient spiritual for solo piano.  

    Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2015, SWARVY produced a variety of records via DJ House Shoes’ Street Corner Music, Leaving Records and Fresh Selects. His writing and engineering credits extend to dozens of tracks by artists such as Maxo, Earl Sweatshirt, Nia Andrews, Mndsgn, Liv.e and the late, legendary Tony Allen.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: Fresh off the Black Focus label, SWARVY provides the most laid back vibes that we all need a bit more of at the moment. Hazy and harmonious melodies are spilling out of this beautiful album, more where that come from please.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Bones
    2. Cool
    3. No Compute
    4. Lemongrass
    5. Smile
    6. New Moon
    7. Ginger

    Wu Hen is the sophomore album from Peckham visionary Kamaal Williams -- an invitation to elevate to a higher state. Cinematic strings from Miguel-Atwood Ferguson and virtuoso saxophone from Quinn Mason are textural additions that make for a deeper, multi-layered experience than previous releases.

    Bringing groove back to the forefront, Wu Hen oscillates between celestial jazz, funk, rap and r&b reinforced with the rugged beat-heavy attitude of grime, jungle, house and garage – a self-styled fusion Kamaal describes as Wu Funk.

    New players on this record include LA’s Greg Paul on drums (of Kalayst Collective), Rick Leon James on bass, Quinn Mason on saxophone alongside a vocal feature from Kaytranada collaborator Lauren Faith. Multi-talented renaissance musician Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (who has worked with Ray Charles, Flying Lotus, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, and Seu Jorge) contributes signature strings, which add vivid colour and rich depth, evoking vintage David Axelrod.

    Kamaal rose to prominence with the hugely acclaimed Yussef Kamaal alongside drummer Yussef Dayes and a catalogue of 12”s for imprints such as MCDE, Eglo, and Rhythm Section as Henry Wu that became essential DJ tools. In 2018 he launched Black Focus Records with the Kamaal Williams debut The Return, which charted in the UK and saw sold out shows and festival appearances across Europe, North America and Asia.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: Frankly exceptional stuff here from Kamaal Williams on his sophomore album, 'Wu Hen'. I'm gonna drop that F-bomb (fusion...) but don't get it twisted, Henry blends jazz, soul, funk and r&b with the bottom end and rugged beat of grime, jungle, house and garage to create a little thing he likes to call 'Wu Funk'.

    TRACK LISTING

    Vinyl Tracklisting:
    A1 - Street Dreams (Feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson*)
    A2 – One More Time / 1989* A3 – Toulouse* / Pigalle
    B1 – Big Rick / Save Me  
    B2 – Mr.Wu
    B3 – Hold On (Feat. Lauren Faith)
    B4 – Early Prayer

    CD Tracklisting:
    1 - Street Dreams (Feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson*)
    2 – One More Time
    3 – 1989*
    4 – Toulouse*
    5 – Pigalle
    6 – Big Rick
    7 – Save Me 
    8 – Mr.Wu
    9 – Hold On (Feat. Lauren Faith)
    10 – Early Prayer

    Ratgrave

    Rock

      Max Graef and Julius Conrad are Ratgrave. ‘Rock’ is their second album - ongoing transmissions of Electronic P- Fusion from Earth. It follows a stellar debut on Funkineven’s imprint Apron. The duo’s sound palette draws inspiration from 80s funk, soul, rock and electronic but through a contemporary lens from two versatile multiinstrumentalists.

      In their own words: “Rock is the essence of energy and vibration we felt in different styles of music, almost like a parallel component connecting all things we like. In the process of recording the new album we kept coming back to this essence no matter what style the original idea was. There was the raw and brutal energy of Jazz-Rock, a lot of video game influences that somehow adhered this essence just as well as quieter Pop and Psychedelic passages that we recorded. Among other things we absorbed a lot of heavy music during the time of the recording like Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa or Jimi Hendrix and realized while writing our own music how much impact they had even on quieter songs. This is why ‘Rock’ felt like the perfect title although the music ranges from P-Funk and Spiritual Jazz to various styles of Pop and beyond.” 

      Max Graef has previously collaborated with Glenn Astro on records for Ninja Tune and both artists have previously released on Tartelet.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      says: The perfect combo of funk/jazz/pop/electronic/balearic to transport you back to the 80s. These tracks would make legendary TV intros/title sequences, an ace mixture of all those genres and it works so well. Get your funk on!!

      TRACK LISTING

      Escobar
      Theme From Metronome
      World Aid
      Instant Toothpaste
      Eternal Breeze
      Yurok
      4 Benz
      Dibidai
      Rock
      Bleeding To Death
      Sturf
      Alright
      Mutti Hat Gekocht

      The third album on Black Focus continues the South London tradition but this time in the form of one of the originators: a triple OG, Steve Spacek. Spacek recently released a solo record through Alexander Nut’s imprint Eglo, dBridge’s Exit Records as Blackpocket, following on from his work with Ninja Tune under the Beat Spacek moniker and collaboration with Mark Pritchard as Africa HiTech on Warp. He’s also made formative work with legendary artists J Dilla, Raphael Saddiq, Q Tip and Common and made early drum & bass tunes with his brother dBridge. It’s an incredible career resume and an honour to be releasing this new work.

      ‘Houses’ sees Spacek return to his Detroit influences, with house music at the heart of this record as its foundation but as with all Spacek’s releases, it transcends genre and focuses more on swing, melody and feeling. There are elements of soul, jazz and R&B interlaced within the DNA of his electronic music, alongside his signature falsetto vocals. The entire project was produced using iPhone and iPad apps, an approach Steve champions and feels liberated by using technology to join the past with the present.

      Describing the project his own words: “It’s been well overdue for me to be releasing some 4/4 House vibes! This music has been a big part of my musical journey from dot. Mainly from two angles. The first is, of course, the early rave scene in London and the UK in general, with all its early iterations. Techno from the D, acid, (happy) hardcore, what we use to call dub house (pre jungle), coming into Garage and Balearic to name a few. The other angle is the music production angle: I’ve always used the basic 4/4 template as a means of being able to learn a new piece of recording equipment. Whenever I get any new beat making hardware or software, I’d always make a house beat. I find it the easiest music to make and have always joked about how I can knock up a house beat in 10 minutes! Well now I have an LP’s worth to share! Taken a tad longer than 10min but hey ;) Enjoy.”

      TRACK LISTING

      Rawl Aredo
      Waiting 4 You
      Where We Go
      Tell Me
      African Dream
      Songlife
      Higher Place
      Single Stream
      Love 4 Nano
      Bright Eyes Rev *
      Yu Used To Love *
      Me *
      Who Cares *
      Child Insperation *

      * = CD Bonus Track

      Kamaal Williams

      New Heights / Snitches Brew

        Following a stellar 2018 for Black Focus, Henry Wu’s new imprint that set the levels with acclaimed debut LPs from Kamaal Williams and Mansur Brown, worldwide tours and international collaborations, Kamaal Williams returns with a 12” of fresh cuts.

        Two new pathways to unknown worlds filtering the Kamaal Williams sound through hypnotic hip-hop on the Darkhouse Family (Don Leisure & Earl Jeffers) co-produced 'New Heights', and melted wah wah psychedelia on 'Snitches Brew', which features Mansur Brown on guitar.

        To echo Kamaal’s friend and collaborator Yelfris Valdés, ‘This aint jazz no more...’

        STAFF COMMENTS

        says: Paving the way for innovative jazz-hybrid-hip hop is Kamaal Williams along with Mansur Brown on guitar, these two tracks are in a league of their own (I think Snitches Brew is my favourite name for a song ever!)

        TRACK LISTING

        A1 New Heights
        AA1 Snitches Brew

        Whether re-defining experimental fusion sounds with the hugley acclaimed Yussef Kamaal, or his catalogue of 12”s for imprints such as MCDE, Eglo, and Rhythm Section as Henry Wu, South London’s Kamaal Williams has been a key figure in his thriving international scene for the past few years. "The Return" is a natural evolution from the Yussef Kamaal project, mining the influence of visionary jazz but blended with all kinds of texture, sounds and signals from the over-saturated London streets.

        At times the keyboard work evokes the classic 70s fusion work of Lonnie Liston Smith or Roy Ayers, but underpinned by rhythms more reminiscent of blunted hip-hop and arrangements subliminally laced with the cut-ups of pirate radio. Progressive, funky, cosmic, exploratory and effortlessly musical, this is the sound of a musician honing their craft into thrilling new shapes.

        In the US the like of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat have made great strides in opening a whole new dialogue between jazz and hip-hop, drawing in a young, highly engaged new audience in the process. Kamaal Williams mine a similar seam on the other side of the Atlantic alongside other exciting London talents such as Ezra Collective, Ruby Rushton and Shabaka Hutchings.

        The Return is exactly that: a return and refinement to the sound Yussef Kamaal were progenitors of, and first set the scene for one of the most exciting musical movements London has had in years.

        Notable tracks for old and new listeners are ‘Slow', 'Situations', 'Medina', 'London Shuffle' which features Mansur Brown (of Mansur's Message) and for those die hard Yussef Kamaal fans - they should hear the interpolated roots of 'Strings of Light' in the title track 'The Return’. And that signature Wu Funk can be heard on Broken Theme, and High Roller.

        "The Return" will be the debut album released on Wu's new label Black Focus Records.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        says: Brilliantly funked-up jazz grooves, rolling bass licks and flickering percussion make this not only a fitting follow-up to Williams' collaboration LP from last year, but a significant progression. Simply stunning, and every bit the summer jazz stormer.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Salaam
        2. Broken Theme
        3. The Return
        4. High Roller
        5. Situations (Live In Milan)
        6. Catch The Loop
        7. Rhythm Commission
        8. Medina
        9. LDN Shuffle Ft. Mansur Brown
        10. Aisha


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