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FIRST WORD RECORDS

First Word Records continues its series of special collaborative releases for its 15th anniversary with an absolutely firing double-header from 14KT and Tall Black Guy.

On this limited 7" vinyl, the two renowned US beat-makers revisit two of their previous First Word singles, turning out flips of each other's tracks, also featuring a multitude of talent, in the form of Moonchild, Muhsinah, Stro Elliot and James Poyser of The Roots.

Following on from the first volume in 14KT's jazz project 'IAMABEENIE', here he flips TBG and Moonchild's collab, 'I Will Never Know', originally from Tall Black Guy's 2017 sophomore album 'Let's Take A Trip'. The original neo-soul bump is transformed into a deliciously epic latin affair, drenched with deep Brazilian vibes throughout - this is one to draw for at those steamy get-downs; a slinky slab of dancefloor fire.

Tall Black Guy returns to First Word for the first time in a minute, and takes on the Muhsinah-lead joint 'The Power Of Same', the lead single from 14KT's 2019 acclaimed album, 'For My Sanity'. As to be expected, TBG delivers his unmistakable blend of dope dubbed-out spacey soul and boom bap kicks & snares, complete with guitar licks from Stro Elliot, and keys from James Poyser.

Two of the dopest producers in the game, this one is completely 1000% essential.

Werkha hails from Manchester originally and released his debut EP back in 2012. Following early praise from Gilles Peterson and the like, he we went on to release a series of records for Brighton-imprint Tru Thoughts, including an album in 2015, 'Colours Of A Red Brick Raft', and co-writing / producing Bryony Jarman-Pinto's debut album in 2019. He's provided remixes for Quantic, Marcos Valles, Dutch Uncles, Andrew Ashong & J-Felix, toured across Europe with Bonobo, Mr Scruff & Chet Faker and is working with poet / singer Keisha Thompson, additionally to composing music for documentaries.

So to the EP, and we set off with the delectable synth-boogie of 'Generation X', laden with strings from Simran Singh. Next up is the 4/4 low-slung head-nodding funk of 'The Key' featuring the vocal talents of Berry Blacc, before we head into some mid-tempo clavinet-lead hip hop vibes on 'Swing Thru'; lush strings again ably complementing and contrasting the bass-weight within the track. 'In Sunny G' follows next, picking the tempo back up a touch with a soulful vocal hook from Ellen Beth Abdi delivering blissed-out sun-glazed sonics, as the title would suggest. This 5-track opus closes out with 'Favourite Corner'; similarly to the EP opener, this is more playfully groovy breakbeat, laced with strings, a swagged-out guitar lick and assorted arpeggiated keys.

As to the meaning of the title 'The Rigour', Werkha says…

"Music is work. In all its different ways, it's a craft that I apply myself to and exist by. As much as that is about love, it's also about pouring in time, effort, patience & rigour. This record is about reflecting on my process and the identity of Werkha as a part of my life."

"These tracks were selected from a much larger bunch of ideas. The tracks that made this EP are the ones where the process was playful. Play in music is so important and these tracks are the ones that best personify play and curiosity, in both their sound and in their process. They all go through the rigor of being played with, pushed and pulled in different directions…"

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: MCR's own Werkha lands on Piccadilly favourite First Word with a fresh five tracker moving between uptempo bruk, squelching boogie, head nod hip hop and breakbeat, all imbued with a futuristic jazziness which looks to push things forward.

The latest signing to the Worldwide Award-winning indie label, Tawiah is somewhat of a trailblazer in the world of alt-soul. Despite this being her debut album, she's long-established in the UK music scene, having previously self-released two EPs and a mixtape, as well as high-profile collaborations with Cinematic Orchestra, Blood Orange, Mark Ronson, Kindness, Cee-Lo, Wiley, Zed Bias and Eric Lau. Additionally being championed by the likes of Zane Lowe, Gilles Peterson and The Guardian, and supporting Moses Sumney on his recent EU tour, it's finally time to unleash a full solo project into the world.

'Starts Again' is an exploration of her identity as a queer woman of colour, raised in a pentecostal family, and a determination to express her musicianship in all its raw glory, free of the constraints of major label wrangles from before.

Co-produced with Sam Beste (Hejira), the album also features vocals from Sharlene Hector, Vula Malinga, Ladonna Young, Ade Omotayo and Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, as well as glorious string arrangements composed by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, with a series of field recordings from Ghana, amongst the varied components.

In Tawiah's words; "the process of creating this record independently has taken years!! From self-produced demos to live recording sessions with my good friends; Blue May, Sam Beste, Alex Reeve, Alex Bonfanti, Nathan Allen and Lewis Wright. Sam and I then had two years of long joyful studio sessions working on the post production. With no external deadlines or briefs we had the freedom to create whatever came. It was a privilege to collaborate in this way".

A triumphant 10-piece opus, the music seamlessly blends avant-garde sensibilities with low-slung beats and layered harmonies. The vestiges of Tawiah's early church vocal training contrast subtly against a distinctive South London accent, which has helped place her firmly at the vanguard of the British alternative soul movement, and establish a rep as one of the country's most exciting live performers. Time Out even saying "she slays so hard, you better hope there's a doctor in the house".

With a series of immersive live shows being planned in collaboration with spatial artist, Studio Myrrh, the latter half of 2019 headed into 2020 is looking to be a busy time for Tawiah. A decade on from her debut EP, 'Starts Again' is a creative reset of-sorts, though she is already highly revered within the music industry. A unique talent, this debut album should rightly cement her status as one of the UK's finest recording artists and songwriters.

Produced with award winning Australian bassist & long time musical collaborator Ross McHenry and featuring a plethora of New Zealand and Australia's finest young instrumentalists, 'A Love Requited' is as much a musical journey as it is an attempt to process, work through and come to terms with the life around him.

"The music on this record was written often as a place of psychological refuge from the tensions of an ultimately failed relationship at home, as well as an attempt to come to grips with thought patterns and personal history that caused an often problematic relationship to music itself. Meditating on themes of love, fear, family, anger, death, ego and acceptance has helped create a narrative arc that grounds the album as well as a mode of therapy to begin working through these issues for myself.

'A Love Requited' is easily my most personal work to date and my hope is that beyond the music itself it may be of help to others, if only to say that your not alone in your struggle to make sense of the world".

This album also features the stellar talents of APRA award winning NYC based pianist Matthew Sheens (John Pattitucci, Cecil McBee, Ross McHenry Trio), alto saxophonist Jake Baxendale (Antipodes, The Jac), trumpeter Ben Harrison (Dave Douglas, Horns Of Leroy), trombonist James Macaulay (The Lagerphones, Epic Brass), multi-reedist Jason McMahon (The Shaolin Afronauts), flautist Adam Page (NZSO, John Psathas, Noel Gallagher), guitarist Django Rowe (Wizard Tone Records) as well as additional keyboard contributions by longtime collaborator Mark de Clive-Lowe (Ropeadope Records, Mashibeats), Brenton Foster and Jack Strempel.

Where Manzanza's debut album 'One' presented his ability as a producer / beatmaker, and his sophomore album 'OnePointOne' showcased his live performance and band leader prowess, 'A Love Requited' puts Manzanza's skills as a composer to the fore.

"Over the last few years I've really enjoyed the process of getting away from music software tools and just sitting at a piano with some manuscript paper and a cup of coffee and seeing what comes of it. I'm a very amateur pianist and my music theory knowledge is fairly limited, but in some ways that's an advantage as I'd be starting with a basic barometer of "does this sound good to me?", without too much consideration for formal rules and structure. From there, developing the arrangements to present to musicians forced me to get a better understanding of melody, harmony and orchestration and to really hone in on refining my ideas to a point where I now feel as much satisfaction and confidence putting myself out on the world stage as a composer as I do playing the drums."

A 7-track collection of tracks, five appearing on vinyl for the very first time, along with a double-header of remixes from Zed Bias, previously only released on a limited edition 10". This is an assortment of cuts plucked from the trio of full-length releases from 2017-2018; the afore-mentioned LP 'Travel Light', the loosies compilation 'The Story So Far', and the mixtape 'The Winter Tape'.

An edit of the feel-good, heads-down bruk track 'Vibrations' sets off the EP, produced by K15, before we get into Zed Bias' take on proceedings with his UKG dancefloor smasher from late last Summer, followed by Zed's heavy remix of the first single from 'Travel Light', 'Slow Down'.

The flipside begins with two of the standout cuts from 'The Winter Tape'; '10 Toes' features Mancunian newcomer HMD on the hook, whilst Konny Kon & Tyler Daley trade bars on some future soul sci-fi boom bap. This is followed by the ethereal R&B stepper 'Ghost'; a bit of a fabled Tyler Daley fan favourite from the archives.

Next, the track that effectively bridged the gap from 'The Story So Far' to 'Travel Light', the Sunset Version of the anthemic 'No Sunshine Tomorrow', before we get into the killer quiet storm closer, 'I Want You', aka the slow jam that wasn't on the original 'Story So Far' vinyl EP.

This EP is a snapshot of Tyler & Konny's various projects over the course of the past year or so, and exemplifies the eclectic approach they've become known for within their own unique pocket of hip hop and soul, which has rightly seen Children of Zeus garner acclaim from a variety of DJs, fans and artists alike.

Since the release of 'Travel Light', the duo have been doing exactly that, continually on the road performing shows across the globe, and are about to commence the second leg of their UK tour, before a busy Summer of festivals, and sneaking into the studio when they can. There's always a bit of room for some 'Excess Baggage' though. New music ready when it's ready, but for now, here's another essential piece of Zeus wax for the collection.



STAFF COMMENTS

Millie says: An extra helping of Children of Zeus is a very welcomed release, geared up a notch with remixes from Zed Bias and some tracks from the cutting room floor of their last release Travel Light. After their stunning performance at Manchester Cathedral last week, this pair are killing it as always.

Following up 'The Power of Same', the first single off 14KT's new project, featuring Muhsinah, and remixed by Kaidi Tatham, 'For My Sanity' is a "freedom project", an album rooted in free creation, without being tied down by bars, patterns, scenes, and sequences. The intention behind this long-player is clearly stated all throughout the 12 tracks: releasing the angst of the current climate we are facing through collective artistic means.

"I made all the music really late at night after my day-to-day work, as an escape from "what I normally do". Paired with the everyday struggles of being an artist, it was very stressful hearing about so many deaths––especially due to law enforcement. Making "For My Sanity" was how I was trying to find peace of mind every night so I could go to sleep." says 14KT.

The themes of the album sway gracefully from personal philosophies and creeds, to burning social matters and celebration of the importance of family and genuine, fruitful friendships. If we were to classify this in a genre, we would say For My Sanity is a jazz record, at its core, but elements of hip hop, soul, r'n'b and latin music are easily recognisable and at home on the album.

"I challenged myself to create a jazz album, primarily using Native Instruments Maschine. 85% of the album was created on there. The rest was my amazing friends and myself playing instruments." KT continues.

'For My Sanity' features an array of fellow visionaries - Jimetta Rose, Masego, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Muhsinah, James Poyser, Stro Elliot, Rasheeda Ali, Farnell Newton, Kris Johnson, Magestik Legend –– who help deliver the message and further relay the essence of what the album stands for.

The journey of this release is a story in itself, as the primary thought wasn't for it to be released, especially with a label. But when this landed in DJ Gilla's inbox, and then shared with the First Word team, it was clear that the music was right up First Word's street.


It's been a long road leading to this album for Tyler Daley and Konny Kon.

They first embarked on their expedition into the music game two decades back - Tyler entered the scene as a songwriter, producer and vocalist, originally under the moniker Hoodman, whilst Konny began MCing, DJing and beat-making for hip hop crews The Microdisiacs and Broke'n'£nglish, along with DRS & Strategy.

To date, Children of Zeus have released three sell-out singles on First Word ('Still Standing', 'I Can't Wait' and 'Slow Down') and a compilation EP comprised of tracks made by the duo over the last decade entitled 'The Story So Far…'.

Children of Zeus are finally at the stage where they are releasing their debut album proper; the over-riding ethos of which is about keeping their eyes on the road ahead, whilst shedding the baggage they've accumulated over the years - 'Travel Light'.

Features mainly come from Manny family; [ K S R ], LayFullStop, Metrodome (Levelz) and former Broke 'n' £nglish spar DRS. Guest production comes in the form of Switzerland's Sebb Bash, Nottingham's Juga-Naut, and London's Beat Butcha, and there's your favourite DJ's favourite DJ,

Mr Thing, slicing up the turntables on two tracks too. There's a few extra special ingredients on this album, along with their trademark sub-heavy, rhodes-laden hip hop soul hybrid. Reggae music has always been an integral piece of the CoZ sound-system ethic, so we see Tyler putting on his lover's rock hat for 'Hard Work', and they invite soul queen Terri Walker to join them on the fierce 'Sling Shot Riddim', while the album closes with the epic K15-produced jazz-bruk opus, 'Vibrations', on which Konny breaks it down quite simply: "high frequency means that you travel light, so get lifted yo, we'll live gifted".

Long as the journey has been, the time for looking back is over. This is about the present and future of Children of Zeus. A shining light in Manchester's now-school, and rightly heralded by many as the best new act to emerge in British soul music in the past decade. Aside from the above features, this project is written, performed and produced entirely by Tyler and Konny. Since the crew first took flight, the end destination has never changed, the aim remains the same - to create timeless music, in their own unique style, without compromise, irrespective of industry and life distractions. The moral being this - travel light.

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Are Children Of Zeus the most important thing to happen to Northwest hip-hop for the last ten years? Sorry, inabit everyone else! A homecoming triumph for these superstars...


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