Moses Boyd has spent the best part of the last decade pursuing a range of collaborative projects so it’s no surprise that the first album released solely under his own name continues this way of working. The ensuing collection, Dark Matter, provides confirmation, if any were needed, that his talents extend well beyond his primary role as a drummer. Here, he’s also a bandleader, corralling various artistic forces into an unassailable, homogenous whole.
It’s a bold, contemporary sounding record that is also aware of its broader lineage, something encapsulated by opening track Stranger Than Fiction. This establishes some central tenets that inform the rest of the album – transatlantic, melodic phrasing, out-reaching and multi-layered brass (courtesy of Nubya Garcia among others), not to mention Boyd’s own incisive drumming. It’s followed by the modern jazz duo of BTB and Y.O.Y.O, each of which assume the role of musical ‘engine rooms’ that build up early momentum, setting the album on its targeted course. The propulsive, impervious BTB sways effusively, while Y.O.Y.O benefits from the widescreen, nimble guitar playing of Artie Zaitz, lending the track a David Axelrod feel.
Shades Of You opens up a run of tracks that demonstrates the scale and dynamism of the album. Boyd’s drumming kicks on vivaciously and the vocals of Poppy Ajudha have an elevating effect, edging the track in a melodic R&B direction. Dancing In The Dark strikes a grittier, more muscular tone largely due to the tenor sax of former Boyd collaborator Binker Golding and the hard-hitting vocals of Obongjayar (who also impressed on his own album Which Way Is Forward earlier this year).
Next, Only You has an urgency bordering on claustrophobia, its metallic exterior recalling the likes of Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck. 2 Far Gone throws another musical left turn, incorporating supple piano runs from Joe Armon-Jones alongside dubstep-like percussion. It all adds up to one of the most flexible and outward looking moments on the album. Nommos Descent reintroduces a softer R&B sound courtesy of vocalist Nonku Phiri before the atmospheric and elusive What Now? brings things back full circle. It’s sequences like this that show how Dark Matter constitutes a quietly trailblazing amalgam of sounds, a projection of well-founded confidence from an increasingly exciting operator.