Alongside LFO, Sweet Exorcist and Tricky Disco, Nightmares On Wax helped create the whole ‘bleep’ scene of the early nineties, while also thrusting Sheffield’s fledgling Warp Records straight on to the cutting edge of early electronic music, a position they still hold to this very day. Having toyed with the whole chill out idea as early as 1991 with Nights Interlude on debut album A Word Of Science, then completely defining it with 1995’s Smokers Delight and subsequent Carboot Soul long-player, producer George Evelyn could easily have become a victim of his own success.
Playing a major part in spawning a musical movement that has produced acts such as Air and Zero 7 and inspired James Lavelle to set up his Mo’Wax label is an achievement to be proud of but, as we all know, the chill out genre quickly reached saturation point and albums with titles like Chilled Panpipe Movie Classics Volume 16 did little to assist its longevity. There is nothing like a change in fashion to separate the wheat from the chaff however, and, following the more song-based approach of 2002’s Mind Elevation, In A Space Outta Sound sees a return to the blissed out chill of previous offerings with Evelyn bravely sticking to his (smoking) guns.
Passion sets the tone with its gentle keys and tick-tock beat complimented by subtle strings and sampled vocal snatches. It drifts on for well over six minutes but, while it may not break any new ground, it is easy to lose yourself in its cosy warmth. Big bass thuds then act as a wake up call as they introduce The Sweetest, a deep, dubby reggae tune with a simple female vocal adding an irresistible element of soul. Flip Ya Lid then continues the reggae theme, Ricky Rankin‘s rich vocals complimenting the sunny skank with a tale of the virtues of keeping your temper from both a personal and global perspective.
By this stage you can already feel yourself gently unwinding so it is a shame when Pudpots kicks in sounding like an inferior offcut from a Quantic album: all brass blasts, cliched trip hop beats and no direction. Thankfully this is the exception as opposed to the rule. Ok, so there are liberal lashings of Hammond organ and slow, chunky hip hop beats, both of which have become chill out cliché, but is this a crime from one who pioneered the sound in the first place? Just by not reinventing the sound or creating another genre, Evelyn runs the risk of sounding dated as so many have aped his previous work ad nauseum since, but he sidesteps these concerns admirably.
The woozy fug of track Me! creates a smoked out haze with its elements of lazy, funk-touched soul. Gentle and mellow it still manages to engage, sink into your skull and stay there. I Am You then takes Zero 7 collaborator Moses and places his disinctive voice straight into a track that sounds like a lost cut from Simple Things. That’s no criticism though, it relaxes then rouses and while it is one of the few moments that can be pointed to as being straight-forward chill out as we know it, it has all the makings of a classic.
In A Space Outta Sound has hidden depths that gradually reveal themselves after repeated listens and an all-encompassing attitude that sees the worlds of dub, reggae, jazz, soul and hip hop collide. Overkill may have given this sort of laid-back, horizontal music a bad name but this album could well go some way to redressing the balance.