Analog Club: March 2023 (Ft. Cosmic Jazz / Neil MacRae)

Analog Club: March 2023 (Ft. Cosmic Jazz / Neil MacRae)

For the final instalment (for now!) of Analog Club, our regular partner-in-vinyl Neil MacRae bids farewell to our little red dot with a typically sublime selection! Paying tribute to all the wax (and wax figureheads) who've made his stay so unforgettable, the Cosmic Jazz presenter & DJ guides us through the dichotomous sonic realms of spiritual and modern jazz, with fascinating detours through Japanese hip-hop, French house, and more.

The Analog Vault · Analog Club - March 2023 ft. Neil MacRae

So this was my third and final DJ set here in Singapore – on Sunday I head back to the UK after seven years on the Little Red Dot. It’s been an awesome experience and I’m very sad to leave all my friends here, including Leon, Hannah and The Analog Vault collective – surely one of the best and most eclectic record stores here on the island. I’d also like to pay tribute to other vinyl emporia who have given me so much crate digging pleasure over the years: notably Cliff and Celia at Retrocrates/The Jazz Vault whose jazz reissue selection is absolutely the best, André at Choice Cuts who are the business when it comes to hip hop new and old school, Hear Records who have such a great selection upstairs – and too many others to mention. Singapore is a real haven for crate diggers – long may it continue.

1. Ezra Collective – No Confusion feat. Kojey Radical - Where I’m Meant to Be (2022)

So first up is one of my favourite releases of the last year – the excellent full-length album from Ezra Collective – part of the huge UK jazz scene that’s really flourishing at the moment. Ezra include some outstanding soloists and on this album they’ve got some special guests too. Let’s name check one of the best keyboard players on the scene – Joe Armon-Jones – and give a shout out to the great Kojey Radical on vocals on this track. Elsewhere you’ll hear Sampa the Great and Emilie Sandé on vocals and a blissful mix of dubwise sounds, Afrobeat, R n B and more. The album includes a funky take on that evergreen classic Smile (written by Charlie Chaplin – yes, indeed!) and a great reading of Sun Ra’s Love in Outer Space that closes the record. But the album really does all hold together and on orange vinyl makes for a treat on the decks. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. I have it on all formats – but vinyl is the one to get. - Here

2. Vibration Black Finger – Blackism from Blackism (2017)

Ok, so it’s another UK band up next but – oh – so different. Vibration Black Finger aren’t well known, and this second album from them pretty much disappeared when released some five years ago – but it’s well worth a listen. Andy Smart is on treated trumpet as he awakens the ghost of Miles Davis from the revolutionary On the Corner album. The album’s eclectic mood is held together by Lascelle Lascelles’ drumming – part Can and part James Brown – but there’s lots of other stuff in the mix too. Lascelles (real name, Lascelle Gordon) was a founder of Acid Jazz pioneers The Brand New Heavies – but this is a whole new order of heaviness. If you like this, you’d probably enjoy Sextant – a fabulous and under-rated album by the British band A Certain Ratio (or ACR). It’s just been reissued – and here’s Knife Slits Water - a standout track. I won’t be selling my original album, btw – but you could head over to Discogs where a mint copy will set you back over SGD $170! Vibration Black Finger’s Blackism is available from those excellent guys at Bandcamp – or just try Choice Cuts where I snapped it up.

3. Herbie Hancock – Sleeping Giant from Crossings (1972)


I’ve played Herbie Hancock on an earlier set but no excuses for playing him again on this one. The reissued album on the Speakers Corner label in a lovely gatefold jacket is something of a revelation – the sound on vinyl is way better than on my original copy (and that doesn’t always happen). The remastering is all analogue and it shows. Herbie Hancock is one of the giants of jazz – still performing live in his 80s and selling out gigs around the world. He grew up under Miles Davis’s wing but the music here is both abstract and funky with electronica courtesy of Dr Patrick Gleeson – the US synthesizer wizard who created those other-worldy sounds. Sleeping Giant kicks off with a battery of percussion before Herbie comes in on Fender Rhodes. Check out the rest of Sleeping Giant right here – but do go and buy the reissue – you won’t be disappointed. - Here

4. Nujabes – Luv (sic) Pt. 3 from Modal Soul (2005)

Jun Seba (瀬葉), who tragically died in a car accident in 2010, was a Japanese record producer, engineer, DJ and remixer who went by the name Nujabes (his name reversed). He released just two albums in his life time and one posthumously. Mostly instrumental – his music sampled hip hop, soul and jazz creating a kind of trip-hop vibe but with breakbeat and downtempo elements too. Every single track on Modal Soul is brilliant. This is music you just want to listen to over again – classic earworm sounds too. In some ways I’m reminded of the great Serbian producer Mitar Subotić who went by the name of Suba and who worked with many Brazilian artists. He tragically died in a fire in his studio but not before completing his wonderful São Paulo Confessions album – try Um Dia Comum (A Normal Day). I think there are clear links to Nujabes’ production style.

5. Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti – Eva - Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti (1972)

Now this just has to be the sunniest music you will hear all year! I first came across this great track on a wonderful new compilation from Mr Bongo Records and then tracked down the original album at Retrocrates here in Joo Chiat Road. Compiled by DJ Luke Una this compilation is a great collection – and it wisely begins with this cut from Jorge and Olivetti’s self-titled album from 1972. When I found the re-released album it was an automatic purchase – and so worth it. Every track is infectious with hooks, synths and great trombone solos – as on Eva. Both Jorge and Olivetti were highly regarded music producers who worked with the best Brazilian musicians – Marcos Valle, Sandra Sa, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and many more. The music is full of those 1980s tropes – synths, drum machines, handclaps and suchlike and is AOR music of the highest order – easily a recommendation and Brazilliance for sure! The album is available here on Bandcamp.

6. STR4TA – Kinshasa FC  - Aspects (2021)

STR4TA is the result of a joint collaboration between DJ and uber-influencer Gilles Peterson and Bluey Maunick, leader of the band Incognito. Both Gilles and Incognito have played here in Singapore at the late lamented Jazz Festival (will it ever come back?) and Maunick – whose family come from Mauritius – was in other Britfunk groups including Light of the World and Freez. The soundscape is straight out of the early 1980s – acid jazz at its best. Is it easy listening or cheesy listening? Either way, it’s just a delight. - Here

7. Barney Wilen – Zombiezar - Moshi (1972)

There’s a big backstory to this one… In 1970, French saxophonist Barney Wilen got together a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa so they could record the music of native tribes. The result emerged two years later – and it’s a dark mix of sound effects, background chatter, African rhythms and avantgarde jazz. Zombiezar is absolutely the funkiest track on the album which you can get on Bandcamp in a fantastic 2LP set along with a CD of the film made about this amazing expedition. This is what a reissue should be like – but if you hanker after the original album, then TAV have a copy in stock right now.

8. Sun Ra Arkestra – Love on a Faraway Planet - Hours After (2020)

I’ve been wating to play Sun Ra here at TAV for ages and I was so pleased to get this album a couple of years ago. It’s actually a two-record set of music recorded back to back in 1986 in Milan, Italy with a version of the Arkestra including Marshall Allen and John Gilmore on tenor saxes. At age 98, Allen still leads the Arkestra on worldwide tours, making him the oldest living jazz musician still playing and touring. Pretty amazing! So what can we say about Sun Ra? Well, first up, he claimed that he is literally not of this earth but was born on the planet Saturn and was sent to earth to promote world peace. His music ranges from wild keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians. Also in the mix are electronic sound, chants and spoken word pieces. I was lucky enough to see Sun Ra perform in London around the time this record was created – and what an experience! The full band on stage, female vocalists and a huge array of percussionists with Ra controlling everything with sweeps of his free hand while the other one stabbed at his keyboards. The music was wild and unruly – free jazz at its best. Back in the UK, I have dozens of Sun Ra albums – and he recorded 100s of them, often privately producing and selling them too. For an introduction to Ra you can’t get better than Lanquidity from 1978 and the track Where Pathways Meet. Then start exploring – there’s a great range of Ra albums here at The Analog Vault.

9. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Exodus from King Scratch (2022)

Now into a completely different genre of music but one that everyone knows – reggae. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was without doubt the most influential producer on the island of Jamaica and this is his early take on Bob Marley’s Exodus. I much prefer it to Marley’s version – it’s more raw, more earthy and typical of Perry’s work – lots of studio effects, found sound elements and tape manipulation. Lee Perry was one of the first Jamaican producers to create alternative dub versions of songs and even whole albums. For an introduction to music on vinyl from his complete career, this new King Scratch compilation is a great place to start.

10. Etienne de Crécy – Le Patron est Devenu Fou from Super Discount (1996)

In French this means The boss (shop owner) has gone mad – referring to theSuper Discount of the title. This record was a great way to end the show and links to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry with its ‘weed’ refrain. The tracks on this compilation are credited to different French musicians but there’re all produced by Etienne de Crécy who themed the record Super Discount using one of his own DJ names – and I’ve included his brilliant logo in the blog notes to this music. How cool is that? You might know de Crecy for his Am I Wrong? single from 2011 – check out the cool video here. The music on Super Discount is basically a French twist on American house music which became known as ‘The French Touch’ and was really popular in the late 1980-90s. Daft Punk, Air, Cassius, Alex Gopher and others all came out of this scene. de Crécy released Super Discount in 1998 and it’s a great kind of summary of this influential style: there’s samples, repeated hooks and filter and phaser effects all set in a consistent ‘four on the floor’ beat perfect for the clubs of the times. I think it still sounds great today! That’s it! I’ll be checking out the TAV Instagram and Twitter accounts when I’m back in the UK – and I’m going to miss you guys.

- Take care and stay safe everyone -