From instantly recognizable garage stompers to Latin-soaked club tunes, Tim Deluxe has produced some very direct dance hits over the course of his career. So the U-turn he presents on his 2016 album, The Radicle, may come as a surprise to some. It transpires that after the throwaway success of his chart toppers -- referring to "Rip Groove," concocted as part of the garage group Double 99, and "It Just Won't Do" -- and his experiences within the dance music industry, Deluxe needed to change direction. So he actively surrounded himself with jazz and blues musicians, eventually forming a collective, and said collective would become the defining feature of The Radicle, as it casually blends live jazz and blues alongside conventional house music production and form.
The sound itself isn't radically different enough that it hasn't been explored before; take St. Germain's "Rose Rouge" for instance. a reference not lost on Deluxe, as the second track "Feelings" clearly riffs on the comparison. But the changes are drastic, and could run the risk of alienating existing fans. Not that Deluxe is concerned; in fact, the opening monologue on "JAS" plays out as his mission statement. It may not be his voice, but it's certainly his message; it questions today's culture, and how it influences, and expects, artists to stay within the lines. An idea that Deluxe has digested and reacted to on The Radicle; it seems obvious that this is the record he wanted to create, rather than the record he was expected to.
The musicians involved include Jim Mullen (guitar), Rod Youngs (drums), Enzo Zirilli (drums), Pete Wareham (sax), Jay Phelps (trumpet), John Donaldson (piano), and Ben Hazleton (bass). All have defined themselves as accomplished musicians, and clearly take their craft seriously. In places, you can feel the tide turning toward Deluxe's former output, but the compromise generally favors the sound of a full live band, as is most evident on the slow jam/lost-detective-thriller theme "LOVE Is." Deluxe doesn't shy away from name checking, either, and not just the explicit naming of jazz artists in the opener, but also in the inverted cover of Miles Davis' "So What!" around the halfway point. If Deluxe's message isn't clear enough, the sprawling closer, "Spirals, Pts. 1 & 2," serves as the underlining; a track that starts out as pure house, very structured, and very repetitive before metamorphosing into jazz, at which point the rule book is thrown out and the musicians swirl around each other until album's end; a clear metaphor for Deluxe himself. The marriage between house and jazz is essentially at odds, with the former often viewed as low brow and the latter the opposite; the risk is that Deluxe has created a record that jazz purists will snub, and house enthusiasts can't dance to. But that seems to be his aim: to avoid mass culture and pursue creativity on his own terms. ~ Liam Martin