Recording information: Linear Labs Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Those who were hip to Adrian Younge by 2016, following Black Dynamite and albums with his Venice Dawn, the Delfonics, Ghostface Killah, Souls of Mischief, and Bilal, knew not to anticipate anything off-speed with the sequel to 2011's Something About April. The psychedelic/cinematic soul specialist achieves a slight variation on his previous output by retaining a few of his regular comrades, such as complementary singers Loren Oden and Saudia Yasmein and guitarist Jack Waterson. Like a modern peak Quincy Jones or Norman Connors, Younge shrewdly enlists a deep roster of known and relatively unknown collaborators. His scope is widened with additional vocals and songwriting input from Bilal and Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, as well as Karolina, an Israeli artist whose doleful voice sounds patched in from some other dimension. Moreover, Raphael Saadiq (vocals) and Tortoise's John Herndon (drums) drop in on one cut each. While the percentage of material written by Younge is significantly lower compared to that of Something About April, one couldn't refer to his direction here as relatively hands-off; never a mere traffic controller or bystander, he plays six to 13 instruments, from glockenspiel to electric bass to Selene, on each track. Repeated listening is rewarded with the subtle, progressive touches that come into focus. "Magic Music," for instance, might resemble a mere retread on the surface -- have we heard that rumbling bass/rattling snare combination before? -- but it's a brilliant blurring of the line between arrogant call-and-response and devotional duet. On paper, "Microphone check one, two -- my sound's inside of you" looks like a typical rap boast, but delivered here by Saadiq, it's a line filled with romantic conviction. Meanwhile, there's another fine detail: Younge's synthesizer burbles and swarms as his organ stabs, conveying the sugary and poisonous elements of a heated affair. Though a couple cuts aren't as quick to stick to memory as the sweet and sour soul displayed throughout the stunning 2011 album, this less novel but engrossing sequel is another worthy addition to the Younge discography. ~ Andy Kellman
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- Something About April [Digipak] (Adrian Younge)