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Jumbonics Talk To The Animals Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Given their vast experience as DJs, musicians and producers, the pair certainly know...

Paul Sullivan 2007

Jumbonics are Rob Mac and Matt Smooth. You may already know their names from revered London hip hop night, Scratch (which they organized), the tasty, beat-led Gum Drop project (which they produced), or the downtempo Speeka album (a collaboration between Rob Mac and spoken word luminary Roger Robinson).

Given their vast experience as DJs, musicians and producers, the pair certainly know their way around a groove; for a while now they’ve been keen to expand from their hip hop roots and embrace other styles, especially soul, funk to jazz.

Their debut album as Jumbonics - the name derives from a vintage 60's Italian Jem Jumbo Organ the duo fell in love with – was 2005’s Super Baxaphone . Where that album was mostly instrumental and took a sampladelic approach, Talk To The Animals, their second outing, boasts a live feel and more attempts at some serious songwriting.

Competent drummer and percussionist Smooth lays down pleasantly loose-limbed beats while Mac dabs bass and keys and Lucy Wilkins (4 Hero) provides some great string arrangements, making for a soulful and richly musical soundscape.

Opening track, the subtly quirky “Auto-Magic,” indicates the more confident direction, and also serves to introduce the integral third element of the band: vocalist Norman Anderson, best know for his work with silky-house/nu-jazz producers Yam Who? and afrobeat drumming legend Tony Allen.

Anderson’s gossamer falsettos grace no less than eight cuts on the album, ranging from the insouciant “Take Me With You” to the more assertive “Last Night”, an unlikely but successful soul-funk cover of The Strokes’ hit, which has provided an ear-catching lead single for the album.

As is to be expected from such a beat-led duo, the instrumentals are good too. The strings and beats combo of “Red One” makes for a pleasant, hip-shuffling interlude, and the warm Rhodes and soulful handclaps of “Roll Mop” is similarly engaging.

Funky, polished and accessible, the only criticism is a general lack of edginess. Many of the tunes seem worthy of dancefloor action but are a shade too slow or a little bit too relaxed. That’s nothing a few stellar remixes can’t take care of though – with a bit of luck, groove aficionados will be jigging to Jumbonics in the very near future.

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