The ethic here is to retain a sense of realness, both vocally and instrumentally.
Gemma Padley 2007-12-20
Has soul music been left behind in this dizzying age of electronic production? The advent of ‘nu-soul’, where tradition meets modern production techniques, has seen a shift in approach but, for the most part, the profound core of soul music remains. Esteemed UK DJ/producer Domu (Dominic Stanton) has joined forces with vocalist Pete Simpson to produce an album that honours traditional soul but realises the benefits of contemporary electronic music.
Far from wallowing in nostalgia, Look a Little Further is fresh, crisp and vibrant. Flecked with genuine feeling, the soft, measured tones of Simpson’s voice do not fall prey to over-production. There is substance in Simpson’s approach, especially apparent on the title track, which was inspired by a Martin Luther King speech. Cool yet passionate, Domu’s flawlessly jazzy beats blend with the raw emotion of the voice to create a remarkable mix.
A feeling of freedom permeates this album. Simpson and Domu have invested a huge effort in ensuring the music is as original as possible. And for the most part they succeed. Tracks such as the mellow, samba infused single “Won’t Give Up” deliver an assured take on soulful jazz, complemented by a well-considered, non-invasive electronica aesthetic. The funky drum patterns of album opener “Don’t Hide” and the more overtly dance leanings of “Second Chance” command attention, while the memorable penultimate track “The Way I See” betrays Domu’s fondness for the choppier rhythms of hip hop.
The overall smoothness of the record is a testament to Domu’s attention to detail, although he never makes the mistake of ironing out moments of emotion in favour of depersonalised production. The ethic here is to retain a sense of realness, both vocally (in lyrics and delivery) and instrumentally. When handled properly, nu-soul can be exquisite. For some, Look a Little Further will be too much of a challenging listen, but for those willing to open their ears, the fusion of Simpson’s gospelly vocals and the production skills of Domu will prove inspiring.