TIGHT, SUPPLE AND SMART Quantic & Alice Russell

On a striking new collaboration, the collaborative British duo drapes
their Latin-infused tropical pop in a steamy-sexy funk veneer.

 

BY CARL HANNI

 

Quantic and Alice Russell,
Brits by birth, both possess a restless musical spirit that has taken them,
literally and figuratively, around the musical world. Quantic, the nom de plume of the globe trotting
producer/DJ/musician and composer Will Holland, moved to Colombia years ago to
immerse himself in vintage cumbia and other South American musics and the
culture that produced them; the relocation ultimately yielded the Quantic-curated
The Original Sound of
Cumbia anthology
issued earlier
this year. Russell has been forging a highly lauded body of work for years that
hits on soul, funk, gospel, blues and jazz.

 

Both Russell and Holland have a knack for
collaboration and for jumping from genre to genre while always remaining true
to their own unique styles. Long time collaborators on a series of
sophisticated, forward looking singles, they recently came together in his
studio in Cali, Colombia,
to record their first full length record together, assisted with great skill
and panache by Holland’s
South American band, Combo Bárbaro. 

 

Look Around The Corner,
issued on Britain’s adventurous Tru Thoughts label, features fourteen tracks of
Latin infused tropical pop, all produced with the unassailably tasteful, light
touch that has always been Quantic’s hallmark as a producer and musician. This
is, for the most part, still funk, but funk without the bluster and simplistic
grooves of many of his fellow practitioners. Quantic has, in his own way, been
moving multiple strains of funk, cumbia and other genres towards where the
mainstream should be for over a decade now, and Look Around The
Corner
has a globalist appeal that could be appreciated anywhere on the
planet. 

 

It’s a terrific pairing. Russell
is in full vocal bloom on Look Around The Corner, whether on the
string-laden deep soul of “I’ll Keep My Light In The Window,” the
dancing-on-the-beach tropical grooves of “Boogaloo 33,” the wistful shadings on
the lovely “I’d Cry,” or the straight up, string infused Latin pop of the title
track. Even better is the deeply atmospheric “Travelling Song,” all sexy
groove, brash violins and Russell’s vocals that swing from the lower register
to a soaring high with intoxicating ease. And the upbeat “Magdalena”
sounds like a hit single in the making, riding on a Motownesque groove and
another supremely righteous vocal from Russell. 

 

Quantic, of course, always
knows just what to do to find the sweet spot. Mariachi horns add the essential
flavor to the instrumental “Road to Islay”; the drums on “Magdalena”
have a textbook perfect funk crack to them; and the band, led by violinist Mike
Simmonds (who is stellar throughout), cooks up an easy flow on “Una Tarde en
Mariquita.” Everything here is tight, supple and smart. Led by Holland, Combo Bárbaro
provide a light, tasteful aspect to every track. 

 

[Well-worth noting: Quantic and Russell were one of the unquestioned
highlights of BLURT’s trip to Austin
for SXSW this past March. “Tight, supple and smart” just about sums it up.
Check out this live clip of them performing “Look Around the Corner” at
KCRW-FM.
]

 

 

 

 

***

 

Don’t overlook, either, The
Best of Quantic
, released last year also on Tru Thoughts; it’s a double CD
featuring 32 tracks that covers Quantic’s first decade of recordings. His
multiple musical personalities are represented: Quantic solo, Quantic Presents
Flowering Inferno, The Quantic Soul Orchestra, Quantic Y Conjunto, Quantic
& Nickodemus and the Candella All-Stars, The Limp Twins, and tracks with
Tempo, Spanky Wilson and of course both Alice Russell and Combo Bárbaro. 

 

To drag out a well worn cliché,
The Best of Quantic is the proverbial embarrassment of riches, but boy
is that true. This is just a feast of plenty for anyone interested at all in
smart, sophisticated, well conceived and recorded global music in the 21st
century. I’ve already waxed extensively about Quantic’s multi-faceted skills as
a producer, musician and composer; suffice to say that they are all well
represented and on full display on The Best of Quantic. The genre mixing
and jumping is always right on, never forced, always dialed in with the utmost
finesse.

 

Some of this is truly classic:
his number with legendary jazz and soul singer Spanky Wilson, “You Can’t Joke
With a Hungry Man,” is as funky-catchy as flypaper, and one of his
collaborations with Russell, “Pushing On,” updates James Brown’s 1-3 groove
into the 21st Century as bracingly as anything you’re likely to hear. “Sol
Clap” is an electro cumbia pop-sickle and “Death Of The Revolution” is a jazzy
cumbia late night stroll.

 

Looking for some grown up
grooves, infused with the musics of the world? Look no further. 

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