Friday, 10 December 2010

Hidden gem: Away with Melancholy - The Natural Yoghurt Band (2007)

When one thinks of the rock and roll capitals of the world its fair to say that Nottingham isn’t exactly top of the list. OK, so it has infamous heavy metal venue Rock City but it’s fair to say that in terms of bands it’s not exactly threatening Manchester, Detroit and Berlin.

It is however the original home of one of the more interesting bands of recent years. The Natural Yoghurt Band combine a love of jazz, funk, prog and beats to create something that sounds retro but new, human yet electronic and for the head as well as the feet.

Made up of ex-Little Barrie drummer Wayne Fullwood and producer/musician Miles Newbold, The Natural Yoghurt Band have just released their second album Tuck in With. It was their first album Away with Melancholy which first caught my ear though. Released on double 10 inch vinyl (itself a statement of intent) on Jazzman records, they didn’t bother press releasing the album, preferring to let the music do the talking and I'm pleased to say it does.

The first thing that is apparent is that these guys have very good taste. Their debut brings to mind British library records, Australian jazz and legendary Californian producer David Axlerod for starters. The track Chit Chat in particular has the feel of one of Axlerod's productions with its funky drum beats and psychedelic harmonies (the only track that features human voice). Other parts of the album are reminiscent of classic jazz and easy listening but this isn't pure nostalgia, the production is sharp and clearly informed by hip hop. It is little surprise that Stone's Throw picked up on it and released it in the US.

Voodoo is a highlight - it phases in and has very little percussion but is quite lovely. It is quite electronic in atmosphere even though its clearly played on real instruments. Broken Rose meanwhile is more abstract and spacey. Organ and xylophone combine to create something that wouldn't be out of place on a library recording. Space echo is one of the funkiest tracks on display with sound effects layered onto the bass and drums and a moog solo to bring you home. This is the sort of space you would encounter if you watched the Clangers back to back for 72 hours first.

Away with Melancholy isn't necessarily a record full of innovation, high excitement or even variety but it carries a really nice vibe throughout. If you are the sort of person who likes to sit and appreciate the quality of the musicianship (the playing is exceptionally tight) with or without a jazz cigarette then you are likely to enjoy Nottingham's finest funksters.

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