Drum ‘n’ bass music is always a hard sell for those not familiar with its origins. Most American listeners cannot see past the hard drums and dark synthesizers to embrace the jazz, funk and soul influences that run through almost every drum ‘n’ bass track. Enter London Elektricity and Power Ballads as an example of the genre’s wide-reaching possibilities. The album clearly is aware of the genre’s sonic lineage as the current incarnation in a long tradition of African art forms, from jazz and blues to funk and soul to hip-hop and breakbeat.
London Elektricity is made up of producer Tony Colman with a rotating roster of musicians and vocalists including Liane Carroll, Stamina MC and the Jungle Drummer. Not since Roni Size/Reprazent has there been such an exciting collective. Power Ballads is a potent exploration into future jazz, a vibrant collage of organic and synthetic elements that should appeal to lovers of drum ‘n’ bass, hip-hop and soul.
To be certain, Power Ballads is definitely drum ‘n’ bass. The album does not shy away from hyperkinetic beats and rapid-fire percussion, but there is a sense that it could fit as easily in the jazz or electronica category at your local record megastore. London Elektricity steers clear of the scary sci-fi sounds that persist in most of the genre and instead leans toward lush strings, blaring horns and intricate drumming.
And Power Ballads is an apt title. Liane Carroll’s vocals can be found on six of the twelve cuts, and her lungs are powerful. She belts out exciting verses and hooks on opener “Out Of This World” and the slower-paced “I Don’t Understand.” Both tracks can be seen as ballads in a more traditional setting, but here they are backed by powerful and energetic instrumentation. MC Wrec appears on two tracks, including “Watching You, Watching Me,” where he is lead vocalist, and he brings in the hip-hop/reggae influence that is synonymous with drum ‘n’ bass. The purely instrumental tracks keep the jazzy and melodic vibe going by incorporating vocal elements and jazz instruments into the flurry of ADD beats.
Few drum ‘n’ bass albums are as successful as Power Ballads at bringing together a melting pot of influences into one sound.
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