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Last Nubian - Better Jams (Tiff's Joints, 2021)

On his latest effort, Last Nubian smashes it home once more with a glorious journey through the many cornerstones of Deep House and beyond, with spellbinding instrumentation and impeccable flows propping up some wondrous atmospheres.

Bridging the divides between feels is never an easy task, but when producers approach these things with a fire in their heart and a passion for all things tonal and emotional, then seemingly it comes as naturally as anything. In the present era, we often find ourselves aligning to discographies and sounds which resonate on a number of levels, levels that satisfy our yearning for something new but also something which feels like it can grow, groove and develop into a new sound as time passes by. The end result are usually a series of records that interconnect from one to the next, driven by an overarching conceptual frame that champions the merging of differing genres and styles and fluidly combining them into a singular voice, that more often than not sings from all manner of angles and perspectives. As we meander along our views expand, the horizons open up and all kinds of delicious styles flow our way, eager and willing to get to know just how far we are willing to push ourselves in the pursuit of sonic ecstasy. That's the wonderful thing about Dance and Electronic music, in that the hardware combines at times so intuitively with the person with their fingers on the buttons, and the two elements intertwine with one another, taking the best part of each other in order to push out something magical. All genres have had this kind of treatment in recent years, and its usually where producers use one genre as an anchor point to launch a revolving array of styles around it, incorporating the best flavours from other threads and imprinting them into a series of tracks that eagerly groove along with one another. Its a series of experiences that appeal to the widest range of emotions, a sensory experience that chimes along to what we perceive and how we look to interpret, making us dance as well as feel all at the same time, and as a duality this is what most crave when they dive head first into a Dance record. Having a wide range of influences to pick from certainly helps, and the combination of different tropes only adds further to the sense of dynamism and allows us to focus very keenly indeed on the structure of the music. Who knows what might flow next, but at the end of the day we can look back on previous works and feel reassured that things are going to be very, very bright indeed.

All these feels and much, much more are present within the works presented to us by producer and DJ Tre Wright, who releases music under the Last Nubian name, who has been wowing listeners with his impeccably blended Deep House sound. Wright's sound concerns itself with numerous strains of the Dance Music experience, in that he places emphasis on not just the ways in which the keys land, or the ever shifting drumming patterns, but in the way in which tracks build, grow, unravel, explode and the like, and when placed within this frame there's a sense of excitement in the back of our minds throughout. His melodic work is a thing of beauty, with a multitude of tones utilised which help to convey an equally impressive range of emotion, from the positively upbeat to the ever so slightly sombre, its all represented here within a range of BPMs. His drums too are a marvel, with the movement between density and sparseness balanced so very well within the shifts between differing stanzas, and the manner in which he designs the percussive elements themselves is mightily impressive. The music is always highly expressive, and Wright does much to build up the space for us to get fully involved in the momentum, with wide reaching breakdowns providing time with the keys and emphatic groove laden moments for us to really get our heads down. He also does a lot of imaginative things with vocal samples, with their presence never far away from the loop or the next phase, and as a melodic tool they work very well indeed, adding a sense of narrative into the mix which takes things to the next level. Moving away from the technical side of things, his style has always shown that there is room to grow upwards and outwards, with his his Balamii radio shows in particular showcasing the enormity of influences that permeate through into his works. Looking over his discography, there's plenty to highlight, starting off with his excellent 'The Reunion' EP, which arrived in 2019, with the music on this showcasing a broad reach and a wonderful approach to creating top quality dance music; the slow and steady 'Crying on Jet Skis' release, which also landed in 2019, with the focus here being on vocal heavy slamming loops, and it works so well; the excellent joint release with Sofa Talk, 'White Pt. V', which landed earlier this year, and features a real mix of all the good stuff; and finally, the expertly driven 'Ghetto Child', which also landed earlier this year and really kicks up a notch in the progression department. In all, Wright's work as Last Nubian has seen him grow from strength to strength, feeling his way out across a spectrum of mood and groove that is always a joy to get to know and even more enjoyable to fall back into when the time feels right. His world is one that contains the heftiest of feels, an abundance of joy that continually feeds into our consciousness, providing all the scope we need to flourish both in the mind and the body. His style is one we cannot recommend enough, so be sure to check out his previous works if you haven't already, they're all pretty damn good.

And now we arrive at his latest effort, 'Better Jams', which lands via the Tiff's Joints imprint. Building off the successes of his previous records, here we see Last Nubian combine numerous treads that he has been building up and combine them effortlessly into a series of audial nuggets that remain as deep as ever, pulsating along to the balance and dynamism that made his previous efforts so incredible. The motifs are there from the off, such as the exquisite key lines, the wondrous melodic layering and swells, and of course the drumming patterns which delight and entice at every turn. Each track provides a differing side to the experience, persisting along in its own space but also acting so very well as part of a collectivised unit, flowing into one another like a 20 minute long odyssey into quiet euphoria. The vocal samples as ever add that little bit extra spice that allows us to feel involved and in tune with everything, our minds being fed from a bountiful bowl of rhythm and mood. To top it all off, there's a remix thrown in from Hugo LX, along with a feature from long time collaborator Dougan, and with that, lets dive into this exceptional slice of House laden heaven.....

Up first comes ‘Fix Your Mind’, which features Dougan, and this one sets itself up very nicely indeed. With a mixtape like opening, where differing vocal snippets and textural swells fall in and out of earshot, the track then opens up to reveal a gorgeous jazz laden rhythm, which helps to set the framework for all that is to flow next. Light arpeggios weave in and out of view, moving with conviction around the top ends as the vocal samples add narrative and texture, and before long the ensemble begins to flesh itself out in its totality. The keys begin doubling up and layering upon one another, with every element finding time to shine as solid lines are interspersed with intricate flowing key lines. The line ‘Wake up, its too late’ rings out at all the right moments, adding further conversational elements for us to get lost within, and as if the vibrations couldn’t be any more fruitful, the Rhodes chords weave their way into the mix, and its simply glorious. The track then flickers into its next phase, with the beat reverting to a core foundation as the intricate key work is replaced by softly undulating lines, their movement as free as the summer breeze. There’s still time for one final flurry of energy, which occurs as the full groove comes back into view, providing us with a final escape into the deep depths of an experience that gives over so much, and asks so little of us - all we have to do is nod along, smiling with glee as we feel everything rush over us. Gorgeous stuff, and a terrific opener. ‘We The People’ comes next, and this one begins with the groove and chatter to get us going. The beat comes out swinging, with plenty of space provided in the bottom ends for elements to come into the picture, and this occurs when the kicks arrive, firstly quite softly before then bringing it home as the glassy chord progression comes into view. When coupled with the bass and the swirling arpeggios that filter into view on the right hand side of the pan, the melodic experience is simply joyous, and as a rising solid chord line comes out of the blend we can only stand back in awe of all that is being portrayed here. The vocals that come in soon after signal a shift into a deep bottom end that is allowed to go on for a good while, and we couldn’t be happier as it provides us with plenty of time to get to know the varying layers and melodies being played out. The beat returns over an equally drawn out period, with the vibes continuing to mesmerise, their presence fluctuating in the breeze, and as the track nears its business end the bottom ends dip even further down to reveal a glorious melodic undercurrent that is hard to not fall in love with, and it acts as a glorious final reminder of what this producer is capable of. Amazing stuff

‘Sold The World’ arrives next, and this one flickers into life with the kicks and rising synths to get us going. The groove continues and as it does all these little elements gather themselves around, continuing to grow and develop as time passes by, and out of the patient build up comes the fully realised outlay, and its very sweet to the ears. The subtle dips in energy, the ever so slight introductions in vocals, the switches in groove and none groove, it all works so perfectly as a meandering, flowing experience. The undulations serve the progression well as when the solid sections come into the picture we remain locked into the groove, keeping our eyes and ears to the ground as we prepare for the next segment to take our breath away. There’s an inherent focus on deepness with this one, with the chord progression maintaining its form throughout as a anchoring element, maintaining our interest but also drawing focus to the excellence that flows all around it. The final breakdown in energy gets us on the edge of our seats, and as it all comes back into view one more time, we are left with the warmest of feelings in our hearts. This is one to come back to, time and time again. Beautiful stuff. To wrap things up, we have the Hugo LX ‘After Thoughts’ mix of the previous track, and this one begins with a big swell to kick things off. The skipping beat provides a basis for all manner of element to come into life, with LX condensing the melodies from the original into these gorgeous note sequences that mimic the feels of the original expertly. There’s lots of space to dip your head into, as chords swing in and out of time, providing us with much to ponder and plenty to consider, as further elements merge and fall away from one another. The manner in which the varying elements move in and around each other is very reminiscent of how Lost Nubian approaches his own cuts, with a beautiful flow that directs the varying elements into the next stanza. There’s a delightful balance here between groove and melody, with the varying sequences placed within the spectrum given plenty of time to move and breath, and as a total package it works so very well. An expert reworking, and as a final thought it wraps up a record that has plenty on its mind, and goes about saying it so beautifully indeed. A real winner, this album.

When you leave an album behind and feel like you have soaked up the widest range of feels possible, then the producer behind it all must have ticked all the boxes. Tre Wright has been serving up this kind of inner satisfaction for some time now, with his controlled yet indefinitely expansive style always serving up the goods when the time requires us to either think or get up and groove a little bit. On this later effort, he doubles down on the amount of melodic excellence on show, filling every single space imaginable with something to marvel at and get to know, and as such we remain satisfied from the single listen but know we can return to it and get the same kind of feels from pressing play again. Each track offers up a differing perspective on the blends that he is able to make, with this approach evident in the atmospheres being crafted from the keys, drums, bass lines and vocals. The reworking from Hugo LX caps it all off, and provides a final dynamic for us to get involved within, with the interpretation doing much to prop up the original and vice versa. Drawing from all manner of the spectrum is always a good thing, and Last Nubian has struck the sweetest of chords between all the elements that make up his intoxicating sound, and this new record is testament to his technique and his vision. Stellar work, from start to end.

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