SINGLE REVIEW: Soul City by GentleBeatz

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GentleBeatz is the artistic moniker of a hip hop/electronica composer and producer currently based in Mozambique. He describes his musical style as lo-fi hip hop/chill-hop. In fact, he incorporates and fuses many eclectic genres into his sound including jazz, reggae, soul, blues, EDM, R&B, folk, indie and world music. His work is mostly instrumental in form and he explains that creating music is partly therapeutic, as a way of dealing with life’s anxieties and difficulties.

This track, Soul City, is taken from the eight track album of the same name. It’s a mellow, mid-paced hip-hop instrumental that makes a strong impact despite its short duration, less than two and a half minutes. It starts with the sound of crackling vinyl, and a languid, dreamy guitar line that quickly latches in the listener’s mind. It has the authentic feel of funk music from the 70’s with its subtle but seductive bassline, yet also has the modern addition of a slinky hip-hop beat.

On top of this are brief bursts of electronica which further add to the modernity of the sound and these gradually become more recurrent as the track progresses. Around halfway through a female vocal refrain emerges that complements the guitar motif perfectly and towards the end the guitar switches to a low octave, giving the feeling of gradually coming down to earth after a flight. It’s this wealth of nuanced detail that marks out GentleBeatz’ music as superior.

Overall, this is a highly impressive fusion of hip-hop, R&B, funk and electronica that is, most importantly, very enjoyable to listen to. GentleBeatz takes the soulful sound of 70’s funk/R&B and brings it up to date with slick hip-hop beats and a modern, cutting edge production style. It is similar to what Mark Ronson was doing in the earlier part of his career, and I hope GentleBeatz gets a break in the industry as his music would bring pleasure to many.

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Afternoons In A Warm Embrace by ToffoBean

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ToffoBean are a production team based in Glasgow, Scotland. Their music is a blend of jazz, soul, hip hop and funk which they describe as Chillhop, Lo-Fi Hiphop, Jazzy Lounge and downtempo. Previous releases include Cherry Wine, God is Pooh Bear and the Cafe Au Lait EP. They use various vocalists and sometimes rappers on their tracks, though are often instrumental.

This album, Afternoons In A Warm Embrace, consists of twelve tracks. Throughout the album, guest guitarist Jim Burns contributes stellar jazz guitar. This can be heard straight away on the slinky opener Dust to Deity. Over a laid back hip-hop beat, a languid chord progression floats across the speakers, with some mellifluous clean lead guitar weaving in and out to great effect.

Abide in The Heart is a dreamy instrumental with a lovely recurring piano figure whilst You Always Want What You Can’t Have is a very well written track with a sultry lead female vocal and a pulsating, funky bassline. Nico’s Beat is a mellow track with a subtle vocal refrain while Let’s Get Lost is the musical equivalent of a jacuzzi. Featuring a seductive, almost ethereal vocal from a French (or French sounding!) female, jazz guitar, sax and flutes float over a deliciously simple but effective groove.

Need You is quality jazz-tinged soul with a catchy refrain, while Peace Like That carries on the vibe at a slower pace. The bassline should get credit here, and indeed the bass throughout the album is first rate. Blue Noir is moodier with a male spoken word vocal, possibly a film sample.

Kirchwasser takes us back into sensual climes with some Je T’aime style breath noises. Moon Tan is jazzy hip-hop with a fine performance from an emcee with a spiritual vibe, with Hold Onto This Feeling a return to the ‘lazy Sunday’ feeling. Closing track The Orange Grove is a great way to finish, a hypnotic beat with a quirky, repeating bassline interspersed with some gorgeous soulful vocals and harmonies.

Overall, this is an excellent album that has been designed as a continual musical experience. The cumulative effect is indeed deeply relaxing and transports the listener to some interesting places. The musicianship and production is first rate, whilst the musical variety within the tracks means there’s a surprise around every corner. If you want the highest quality chill-out music, look no further than ToffoBean.


VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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