Future Reference sees Rhombus return with a follow up to 2002’s Bass Player. The musical core of Rhombus remains the production team of Thomas Voyce, Simon Rycroft and DJ Koa (Roots Foundation) laying a down tracks for Imon Star and Antsman’s conscious raps, and MC Mana’s rougher dancehall delivery. Future Reference adds the soulful vocals of Deva Mahal and Ebb’s Lisa Tomlin to the mix. It’s an accomplished, eclectic affair that doesn’t disappoint. The disc begins with a handful of tracks on which Rhombus show off the pop sensibility that saw their debut go platinum: witness the rolling, funky ‘Mile High’ and the excellent, Fat Freddy’s-ish ‘Together’. Later, the album veers into Michael Franti territory on ‘Pocket Full of Seconds’ and ‘Love Spreads’, and on to classic roots reggae with ‘True Rub-a-Dub Love Style’. Tomlins’ stunning vocal performance on ‘Scorching Bay’, a beautiful anthem to cutting work to go drink on the beach, is an absolute highlight. It’s also great to hear the band branch out into more unconventional territory. ‘Cloudkicks’ apparently layers a koto sample over Pasifikan drumming and programmed breakbeats. Closing track ‘Sojare’ sets a Rajastani lullaby against delicately programmed hi-hats and gently skanking bass line. Very impressive.
The Rainy Days
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Having released just a handful of singles and albums since forming way back in the early nineties, Auckland’s Rainy Days are hardly prolific, which is a pity, because the diverse and uniformly excellent Facework shows what a brilliant, original band they are. The album covers a lot of ground within in a loose garage rock paradigm, from the raw Stooges romp of the title track, to the indie-folky Go Betweens sound on cuts like “The Photographer”, to the gently trippy “Liquid Oxygen”. The banjo on “It’s a Way Out” recalls Beggars Banquet-era Rolling Stones. In short, absolutely bloody fantastic.
The third album of saccharine pop jazz from British singer-songwriter prodigy (he released his debut album at age 19) Jamie Cullum. Cullum and his dully proficient backing band of musicians work their way through a diverse set of crooning ballads and uptempo numbers (like opener ‘Get Your Way’, driven by a funky Lee Dorsey break). Billed as a kind of Sinatra for Generation Y, it’s hard to find Cullum’s patina of smoky sophistication convincing, given his youth and the calculated, sterile sound of the disc. Still, there’s no questioning his voice is gold. Liner notes, lyrics and a ‘making of’ doco DVD are included.