Review Summary: Soulful Drum ‘n’ Bass that is as captivating as it is flawed… David Guetta, this is not!
Nowadays, it is so commonplace for musicians to seemingly appear out of nowhere and reach the top of the charts, that the feat itself feels meaningless. The more relevant question would be whether such acts are a flash in the pan, or long-term prospects. With the recent proliferation of featured artists, one tell-tale of those in the former category uses what could be termed “piggybacking”. However, no such accusation could be directed toward relative unknowns Rudimental or John Newman when ‘Feel the Love’ shot to #1 in the U.K last June. If anything, this was the rare occurrence of two sets of musicians simultaneously achieving the misnomer that is becoming an “overnight success”. And for those playing the “flash vs prospect” guessing game, you may already have your results; with the two teaming up together for subsequent top 20 hit ‘Not Giving In’, while Rudimental again climbed to the peak of the charts (with the help of nineteen year old vocalist Ella Eyre) with ‘Waiting All Night’.
On the surface, all three of these singles deliver an accessibly catchy Drum ‘n’ Bass sound which seemed specifically created for the mainstream market. Dig a little deeper, however, and the triumvirate reveal that they may actually be more substance than style. There is a rapturous vibe permeating each tune, with both the sonic layers and unheralded vocalists contributing equally. Furthermore, the English quartet never allow the frenetic breakbeats to overwhelm, instead choosing to inject soul influences, trumpet breaks and near gospel like backing vocals to play a role in the climactic build-ups. A testament to the varying influences of the four young songwriters/producers/musicians, their debut LP was always going to be an interesting proposition which could have gone either way. Unsurprisingly (for those who did dig beneath the surface), ‘Home’ is a sometimes captivating, occasionally flawed, but always intriguing release.
Right from the get-go with the soulful funk of the title track, Rudimental alert listeners that these soaring smash hits will not necessarily foreshadow ‘Home’ as a cumulative whole. One of many – maybe one too many - female-led slow jams, these arresting tunes brandish impressive vocal performances from the likes of young British singer Foxes (‘Right Here’), Disclosure collaborator Sinead Harnett (‘Hide’) and The Voice alumni Becky Hill (‘Powerless’). Furthermore, the quartet bravely – and wisely – choose to hand two under-stated songs to the most familiar name here: Emeli Sande. Far from adhering to a formula, the group unite with fellow up-and-coming producer MNEK and get a little more ambitiously creative on the gurgling synths of ‘Spoons’ and the ultra-groovy ‘Baby’. The only track which does feel a little ill-fitting is the still solid excursion into hip-hop that is ‘Hell Could Freeze’, featuring Angel Haze; the Michigan born rapper best known for her diss tracks against Azealia Banks.
While pundits are often loathe to label such a collective of electronic music producers as a band, Rudimental truly feel as if they are one. The converging influences of each member results in a diverse amalgam of styles, even if D’n’B purists are likely to champion the compromising “Jack of all trades, master of none” argument. Drum ‘n’ bass, urban house, garage, dubstep and R’n’B are just some of the genres dabbled in, with throwback nods to the likes of Massive Attack, Morcheeba and Soul II Soul merging with acknowledgements of modern contemporaries such as Disclosure, SBTRKT and even James Blake. While this back-loaded fifty-six minute album undoubtedly has some sequencing and editing issues, it is a meticulously crafted debut which should be just as effective on a good pair of headphones, as it is played live in a club or at a festival. At the very least, ‘Home’ is that rare commodity which is chart attractive dance music that actually contains substance… David Guetta, this is not!
Recommended Tracks: Feel the Love, Not Giving In, Waiting All Night & Powerless.