Brighton-based DJs/producers Mex and Carl Faure are lounging several seats apart on the cover of this their debut album as duo Black Grass. Whether the photographer was trying to convey the distance in the two groovemakers’ ages (almost a decade), or simply portraying the gulf in their respective styles is hard to tell.
The record, which has the unusual distinction of being released in Australia and New Zealand a month ahead of the UK, has been hailed as “top notch”, “perfect for stoned sofa surfing” and “the jazzier, funkier side of hip hop and breaks”. However, one description of the album as “a genre-jumping feast” is probably the most accurate.
The listener is treated to everything from UK garage to British hip-hop to dancefloor to jazz to funk. The album manages to namecheck all these genres, and gives a passing nod to a few others too.
Instrumental Grass Roots opens the record with a cinematic feel, joining strings and trumpets to beats like a latter-day James Bond theme tune. Easy gets the genre-hopping underway with loud vocals and fat beats. Blak Twang does the job on guest vocals, even if the top half of the chorus line sounds stunningly similar to 1990s dance classic Ebenezer Goode.
Score is an early highlight, mashing jazzy trumpet and double bass samples with a Latin rhythm to create the perfect lounge lizard number. Ra Khan makes the first of two appearances on the soulful, urban Going Home, while Aporia kicks off like a Space Invaders theme tune and bottoms out as a percussion-heavy funkfest.
Next, we’re asked to Nice Up the dance with a floor-filling beat. Taking it down a notch, Reprise brings us Miles Davis-era jazz over a syncopated rhythm.
Hip Hop is the next genre, er, hop, with Bang! (Turn It Out) featuring guest vocals from Supa tc iz. On The Finest Thing, the disco stylings, pointed piano melody and funky beats make Ra Khan sound like Prince.
Scratching is much in evidence on the groovy Self Assessment, which engages the rapping services of Maylay Sparks, and reggae rap Ain’t The Man which features Mango Seed.
You’re probably thinking by now that the only style left out of this virtual menu of modern electronic and urban music is the much maligned chillout vibe. Sure enough, closer Toys leaves us blissed out among the clouds, floating amidst samples of ocean spray and other sounds from the deep sea.
For beats and bass-lines, the Black Grass boys are equal to The Chemical Brothers in their variety and invention, and this sweeping, ambitious work only lacks the calibre of guest vocalists that the aforementioned duo can command.
It would be far too lazy a comparison to hail them as the next Chemical Brothers, but Black Grass have certainly produced a record to compete with anyone else on the British dance scene. And if it is like a modern music menu, then Black Grass is feast of diverse dishes that is definitely worth tasting.