Thursday, 17 June 2010

Hidden Gem: Morning Sun - Block 16 (Nuphonic) 2001

House music often leaves me cold. Its a genre which tends to prioritise style over substance and as such many records date very quickly. There are, of course, exceptions –Masters At Work spring immediately to mind as does the Nuphonic Record label which brought a number of excellent acts to the fore in the noughties including Faze Action, the Idjut Boys and Block 16.

These acts managed not only to create great dance floor singles but also whole albums which were coherent, not too samey and enjoyable. Faze Action’s first two albums are well worth seeking out in particular along with Block 16’s Morning Sun, released in 2001. This was an ambitious collection covering latin, dub, house and electro and brought together a varied collection of vocalists including Jhelisa, John Lucien and Bim Sherman.

Opening track Find an Oasis features Jhelisa and is fairly typical of the Block 16 sound, combining the cutting edge sounds of the London club scene with authentic latin rhythms. It transports the listener to both the acid jazz years of the early nineties and the more recent broken beat scene and eases us in gently. It is the title track of the album which really catches the ear first though. A strummed acoustic guitar interspersed with double bass and drum and Jon Lucien’s earthy vocal over the top. Morning Sun has soul, rhythm and melody and is an immediate riposte to those who claim that dance music lacks a human dimension. (Incidentally there were a couple of very good Pepe Bradock mixes of this track when it was released as a single).

Slow Hot Wind, as its name suggests, slows things down. It’s dubby and works around a Sergio Mendes sample. It has a late sixties feel as a result bringing to mind Roy Budd or the Blow Up soundtrack. Next track Ain’t got no Jibber Jabbercouldn’t be more different. An electro boogie monster injected with space invader samples – it could be a Planet Rock out-take if it wasn’t for the fact you knew it had been made in London post-millennium.

Side 1 finishes with Sweet Bassoon. This features a harp (well before Joanna Newsom and Flying Lotus brought them back into vogue) and is similar in feel to Santana’s Abraxxas if it had decamped to Havana.

The second side of the record is similarly varied to the first. Can’t stop is probably the most out and out house track on the album. It features vocals from Robert Owens and isn’t dissimilar to Gabriel by Roy Davis Junior for those of you that know that. Electrokution, as the name suggests, is another electro break (and a very good one at that)while My Sunshine brings to mind Dub Syndicate or Zion Train with its dub beats accompanied by the late Bim Sherman’s Irie lyric. The final track The Land is Yours, is arguably the most interesting track of all. Free jazz saxophones are scrambled over urgent beats and acoustic guitar to create a series of adjoining rhythms. A subtle Jhelisa vocal is played over the top to create something that is both experimental and slightly bewildering.

This record is an excellent example of what is good about the UK music scene. Taking influences from all around the world, placing them in a blender with the sounds of the day to create something new. If you like your dance music but don’t get on the dancefloor as much as you like and want to enjoy dance music at home this is a great place to start.

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