On Andrew Murphy Presents The DUBSOULS in Session, (Youthsounds, 2019)
As a ska like fugue of brass ushers us into this swaggering new record from RDF and The Dubwarriors’ Guitarist Andrew ‘Murph’ Murphy one is instantly reminded not only of music’s elegance and ease, but also of its transformative power. Youth’s Youthsounds label continues its ascent in the championing of music that crosses the spectrum of dub, ambience, reggae infused electronica, global dynamics and the still to be catergorised with this unique and exotic blend of jazz, dub and as it says on the CD or digital sized tin, soul.
Top Flight saunters and sways across the senses courtesy of Dan Reid’s artful trumpet, Matt Dowse’s supportive trombone,and Ben Plocki’s stately Saxophone, with Martin Jenkin’s intricate sixties style Hammond work giving way to Murphy’s dextrous six stringisms, borne on the musical breeze of Ted Beham’s skittering drums and Charlie Jones’ expertly designed bass. White Rose (deliciously mixed by keyboard king Michael Rendall) reggaes in on the motions of Jones’ bass before organ and guitar scat and sing their way across the soulscape, instantly creating a night located somewhere between late fifties Havanna and a backstreet bar in a town of your choice. As with the masters who roamed from Ronnie Scott’s to New Orleans, these musicians colour each moment and passage with unexpected episodes of discovery and invention, allowing for statements of joy and renunciation with an effortlessness that creates its own form of aspiration in the listener.
One Time has the same, equally appealing reggae style shimmer and its descending runs of brass and guitar allow the title phtrase to be sung in the mind as both refrain and rallying call. Tuff Enuff recalls Blue Note guitar star Grant Green at his finest before Jenkins’ intricate fingerwork propels the Hammond into a sound marriage with Murph’s string fired spouse, with the expected sax scented progeny appearing through Plocki’s smooth rasp like phrases, cresting and courting song’s call. DubSouls In Session is a record that even on first listen takes and transports you to a golden era when sound was both king and kingdom, a place for which anyone willing held passports as soon as they wanted; you just had to listen and dream.
Dub makes itself known properly in the exquisite Sunflower. Here the dazzling implications of that word gain providence over Benham and Jones’ irresistible rhythmic pattern. As the Hammond moves into areas of almost swirling ambience, suspended guitar chords hang in the air, granting the track both space, dimension and naturally its own sense of time. Here, then are sounds that create their own language. Words occur to you, but disappear faster than steam, disappearing into the aural envelopes these expert musicians open, seal and deliver skyward. The music is made to absorb your reaction and its delicate understanding is a communion for the ear. For Music does speak. Words alone are mere cover. A song like Sunflower is a new way to express how to be.
Shine rides the ska, but with the sort of sheen that feels special. One coasts as one listens and surfs on the soundwaves that Murph conjures up. Fast phrases, soft notes, and the tapping of the bass’s top strings as reminder, ensure that sensation is packaged and preserved perfectly. Restated phrases, and the lightest touch keep us moving as the light the song looks for is ever so gently released. The rhythm, relaxed as it is, allows us full admittance as the melodies that emerge in separation – as they do in the best jazz and soul fed inflections – rise like fish seeking surface to catch a splash of effervescent sun in the stream.
Heart has an ambient air that the reggae patter now settles. The slow phrases are worked out and almost commented on as they’re played. The song stream as it flows is already forming new waters and taking us, the uncharted, towards the other side of the dream. Small explosions occur through circling lines on the Hammond as the brass section near warns us of how close we are to the fray. This then is music as change, even as it remains within the same spectrum. Its rainbow flows one way. And it is colouring now, the known day.
Toots ‘maytals’ in. After a flutter of guitar here is a sinuous section. The ‘hornistas’ playing as if their instruments were becoming the shapely backing singers of all of the best bands of your imagination. Murphy writes across this most enticing sound image with near Santana like statements as the entire song sways to the most appealing of nights. One can see as one hears a trendy London audience grooving to it; girls of a certain type bending softly to the folds in the air they fit in. This is a track that the Old Bass Clef club was made for, or The Jazz Cafe when its jazzing; there is a classicness to it, as seventies soul roars and rears.
Daktari is a mix of Algiers and Trenchtown and shows that Murphy as both composer and arranger is a multi linguist in music’s semantic otherworld. His understanding of texture and balance is second to none and as a tango-like piano line enters for the first time it cuts through the sound like a searchlight through fog, allowing more intricate explorations from his touristic guitar. If music is mood and title indication then this song in particular is a kind of Egyptian/Jamaican film noir.
Solid Silver seals and soundproofs. Skittering beats and bass pulse allow for a kind of call and command through the music. The notion of small phrases of communication, without words lends this style of music real power. Reigning Lord of Ambience Brian Eno has said that the most important part of a pop record is the backing vocals, as they provide encouragement for the listener to sing. Here the component parts of the song, as in each of the pieces here, compels us to mouth or call for epithets or lyrics that will enable us as we dance, move and listen to this music to contain and thereby align with it somehow. We wish to join with it as a means of salvation, escape and repair. Andrew Murphy Presents The DUBSOULS in Session is an immaculate record. Its sheen and its gleam are endlessly persuasive and as it ends with the slight return of the incandescent Sunflower, through an exuberant piano led variation, it is both a shade we should search for, and one, if we are honest, under which should long to remain.
At first this is jazz, but then there is dub underpinning. Look again, it is reggae, but then it’s new sounds. It transforms. The session has begun and now it is calling. The session is open. It is changing your mood. The soul’s warm.
David Erdos 4th Decemember 2019