A well-produced set, albeit lacking in abundant originality.
Lou Thomas 2011-09-13
Ben Westbeech’s auspicious 2007 debut album, Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life, included Get Closer, a terrific liquid drum‘n’bass tune co-produced with DJ Die. The album also saw the versatile Westbeech unleash the occasional smooth-house triumph like Hang Around, alongside slick retro-fitted funk numbers like Dance With Me.
Now Westbeech has returned, having jumped ship from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings (home of ace Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet’s debut LP) to venerable house label Strictly Rhythm. He’s also been on the move literally, recording There’s More To Life Than This in his hometown of Bristol as well as a half-dozen other cities, from New York to Berlin.
Time and travel may have broadened his mind, but there’s not enough to suggest Westbeech has significantly progressed during his hiatus. This album is well-produced and likeable, but lacking in the necessary originality and fire to transform it from something your mum would quite like to something your date would take off their clothes for.
The best song is Stronger, the only tune which does show a touch of development between Westbeech’s two albums. It’s ostensibly a slab of nifty deep house that fans of Way Out West, Deep Dish and John Digweed would appreciate, created in collaboration with Leeds-based producer Midland. It features a Jamie Woon-flavoured vocal and heaps of ominous atmosphere, with resulting sound something which could accurately be summarised as ‘post-Burial’.
Something for the Weekend is a decent vehicle for Westbeech’s impressive voice, and contains a line certain to resonate with many late-night party-goers: "I’m so far from my ends and I know the night bus doesn’t take me there." Towards the end of the album, Let Your Feelings Go is another winner, a snappy breakbeat allied with Kool & the Gang funk.
Unfortunately, there’s too much here that’s like The Book, the album’s opener. "Summer goes and winter comes again / Rearranging, some things remain the same," aren’t lyrics to believe in. Butterflies and Sugar are similarly afflicted. All three songs are pleasant enough, but Westbeech is clearly better when making music people might dance to, rather than discuss mortgages to. All told this is a decent effort, but one to approach with caution if you’re after something a bit different.