Thirty seconds from the close of ‘She Said’, Kamasi Washington’s saxophone erupts out of hiccupping rhythms, as if compelled into action by Obongjayar’s impassioned vocal. Its euphoric presence is brief but indicative of the magic at play in this collective endeavour, helmed by label founder and producer Richard Russell. A 21st century soul revue of sorts, the cast of luminaries also includes Giggs, Sampha, Green Gartside, Rachel Zeffira, Owen Pallett and Ibeyi.
The obvious risk of deploying so many constituent parts is arriving at a disparate jigsaw that often shines but fails to array itself with clarity. Not so with ‘Everything Is Recorded’, a record meticulously meshed via Russell’s signature production style. It’s a lean, percussive template upon which he builds a sonic assortment akin to witnessing ever-evolving landscapes from the faintly condensation-coddled window of a cross-country train. Moments of beauty rise out of an enveloping warmth. Fractured samples of dialogue, occasional crackle and refrains from other tracks bubble up during ‘Intro’, pulling off the same circular trick utilised on Damon Albarn’s solo album ‘Everyday Robots’, upon which Russell worked.
Early teaser track ‘Close But Not Quite’ melds a brief Curtis Mayfield sample from ‘The Makings Of You’ to a vintage vocal performance from Mercury Prize winner Sampha. He and Washington combine on ‘Mountains Of Gold’, alongside Ibeyi and Wiki, for a heavy fug of melody anchored by a thudding piano line, while Scritti Politti’s Gartside accompanies Infinite on the warm simplicity of ‘Bloodshot Red Eyes’.
The sublime cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Cane’ featuring Ibeyi is a crystalline recasting of the aching soul of the original into the sheer clarity of the digital era. Owen Pallett’s swelling orchestral score for the title track provides the illusory notion of a curtain call for this enchanting ensemble, its delicately unsettling intensity chiming with the repeated clip of US preacher TD Jakes saying, “there are moments in our lives that we feel completely alone. We feel as though no-one knows what we're going through.”
A project which emerged from a synth-driven convalescence, after a year besieged by an autoimmune illness - Guillain-Barré syndrome - which left Russell temporarily paralysed at its apex, ‘Everything Is Recorded’ is imbued with a sense of embracing humanity in the face of the uncertainty that lurks around the corner. Diverse talents are woven together with ease by a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of how music can affect us. The end result is something truly special.
Words: Gareth James
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