Speakers Corner Quartet are an ensemble that stray away from the crowds – they stand out for all the right reasons. Since their formation in 2006, members Biscuit, Kwake Bass, Raven Bush and Peter Bennie have formed the backbone of what feels closer to a community of musicians, an incubator for long-term collaborative relationships and creative exploration. Their ethos aligns with those who strive for longevity, a sprawling list of contributors that range between Sampha, Kae Tempest, Dean Blunt, MF DOOM, and Lianne La Havas.
Debut album ‘Further Out Than The Edge’ could’ve only come together with time – a rebuke against virality or, quite frankly, anything that diverts one’s attention away from the creative process. Across 13 tracks, Speakers Corner Quartet tackle each creation from a different angle and perspective, nothing sounds quite the same. Melding together the freeing elements of jazz with subtle electronics and poetry, the group’s succinct instrumentation ties everything together into one, cohesive body of work.
The atmospheric opening tones of ‘On Grounds’ ushers the listener in, revealing the distinctive voice of Lewisham artist Coby Sey. Entering a more pulsing and hypnotic rhythm, Sey meanders over a looping hook, embellished with quirky synths and glitches. Following track ‘Acute Truth’ takes the project’s first sharp turn, opting for movement and groove in its bass-line. Inviting LA based cellist Kelsey Lu, the track is a smooth and dynamic piece of instrumentation that blurs the boundaries between hip-hop, soul and jazz.
Although the tracklist leaps between full, warm textures into the more haunting and minimal, FOTTE is far from an inconsistent listen. Instead, the contrasts between ‘Acute Truth’ and ‘Fix’ are what make the latter all the more stark, momentous and engaging. Allowing for Tirzah’s bare vocals to take centre stage, SCQ follow the enigmatic artist’s spacious delivery with off-kilter guitar plucks and strums – creating a truly special, spotlight moment on the record.
Situated at the heart of the tracklist is ‘Soapbox Soliloquy’, embracing a more gritty, mood-shifting production. Yet, it’s the glazed tones of LEILAH that illuminate the song, creating something that feels delicate and bittersweet. Instrumentally, each element grows into its own journey, whether that be the track’s tumbling drum patterns or its dainty, trickling synths. Amplifying the record’s overarching feel, SCQ shrug off the conventionally polished or rigid in structure, leaning into whatever feels true to their instincts, and those of their collaborators.
The likes of ‘Hither Green’ are equally moving, a deeply personal and sentimental offering that features the intricate pen of James Massiah. First coming together as a house band for Brixton-based spoken word and hip-hop session, Speakers Corner – it’s verses as such, along with Kae Tempest’s, that capture the ensemble at their most elevated and distinguished. An affectionate return to the band’s origin story.
‘Shabz Needs Sun’ brings a celebratory vibrance before concluding with ‘Karainager’, a dazzling performance featuring Mica Levi. At first steady and menacing in its pace, the track spirals into the unexpected, lead by a wandering, mystical flute that earns FOTTE a grand round of applause.
‘Further Out Than The Edge’ is a creatively rich and inspiring debut from Speakers Corner Quartet, an emblem of their sixteen years spent together as a community of musicians.
Words: Ana Lamond