Somnambule - Writing About Music

Various Artists ~ Soul Obsession

This is a compilation on LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking label. I’ve heard of only one of the twelve artists, many of whom have fascinatingly odd names (Greenfly, Bun, Fluff or Hand Polished anyone?). A few tasters follow:

Things kick off with Drifting Sun by Stylin’: mellow, repeating figures swoop and soar in the middle air, there’s a nice piano solo; this is a track with a good, upbeat feel. Percussion patterns shift and change until I realise I’m already a couple of minutes into a new track (the cd’s mixed down).

Cadien’s Solaria comes surfing in on a low tropical wave - pixels visible only if you freezeframe - a cocktail of 808 State circa Pacific State and 4Hero/TwoPages. Continuing the optimistic feel with a stronger edge, building things up - very nice.

Grasshopper by Sian introduces bongos, wah guitar, electric piano and flute and segues nicely from the previous track; shades of Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions, but for the new millennium.
Hand Polished/Conceptually Confused has a nice, urgent bass call answered by dips and dashes of electronica maybe from a particularly virulent Warp/Intelligent Listening compilation, snares fizz and flash, this is the sound of speeding through a tunnel, breaking the speed limit.

Phluff/Fast Movers feels like we’re in an alternate universe where breakbeat broke out in the 60s, loping percussion, soul piano and big strings. Affirmative stuff…

So, 10 years and more later – is this where breakbeat is? Well no, this is not one of those rare, defining compilations, but it’s an indicator of one of the tributaries downstream of the breakbeat delta. There’s a cool heat here, maybe all that’s left of the sonic reverb you get in the jungle, but it’s enough to give the listener a sense of space and detail. Nothing will bite you here, there’s nothing fatal like a bludclot art’attack but that might sometimes be a good thing.

There are various flavours here: hiphop, vocal, etc., however the sense of a drum'n'bass diaspora leads to a sense of cohesion and flow. This is Sunday afternoon music for taking it easy after a long slow waking up while you make the breakfast with the sun coming in the window – if it’s raining, Soul Obsession will make up for it.
Colin Buttimer
October 2002
Published by the BBC