Peppered with successful moments of broken beats and down-tempo soul.
Phil Smith 2010
Impressing throughout the last decade as a purveyor of the finest in deep house, Osunlade has always championed the soulful and organic within the electronic. 2001’s Change For Me, produced for Erro, might be something of blueprint, laced with lush strings, acoustic guitar and rich backing vocals; his interest in variety of world genres, meanwhile – Afro-jazz, soul, disco, flamenco – shaped the additive forms of 2006’s Aquarian Moon album. With Rebirth he takes things a step further, producing a series of self-contained songs rather than looser, looped beats.
Rebirth’s most successful moments, however, come in a central sequence of tracks which maintain ties with the dancefloor. Break It Down is a neat bit of samba-feel broken beat, in which sparse synth textures and wobbling bass injections combine around understated soukous-style guitar. The Dating Game follows, the first real taste of four-to-the-floor, delicious down-tempo soul which recalls Amp Fiddler in both production and vocal delivery. Willin’ evokes a Stevie Wonder ballad over rolling tom-toms and finger clicks, implying a house groove which is never quite let out the bag. In Glide, Osunlade flexes his jazz flair in a hip hop setting with a tune that borrows from John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and – somehow – manages to successfully merge tabla with wah-wah guitar.
Elsewhere though, a combination of saccharine vocals and weak songwriting threatens to drown out this quality. Umakemesmile sounds like Boyz II Men at their worst, opening with an introductory ‘seduction’ spoken in hushed tones (“I just wanna take this time out to tell you how much I really love you…”). Complacent is just-about-stomachable until the chorus at which point the RnB sentimentality and harmonic cliché reaches Damage-ing proportions. And while Butterfly is a polished soul song laced with tidy horn lines, it’s very lightweight and easily swatted away.
The album title’s sense of reincarnation seems apt in reference to the pleasing flashes of Wonder and Prince that surface throughout. But on the whole, the move away from the dancefloor isn’t a massive success; standing around, you tend to notice dodgy lyrics about domestic living (“I like silver, you go for gold / You can’t conceive the thought of putting up your clothes”) and the ever-present choir of overdubbed Osunlades is far from forgivable.