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Soul Connection - Street Soul (Invisible City Editions, 2020)

Rhythms of wonderment collide with sensual emotive keys on this expressive and mega soulful reissue from the always impressive Invisible City.

If the 80s spent their time discovering how electronic music can connect with the soul, the early 90s spent their time nurturing it. From the moment when Detroit Techno and Chicago house blended together the flavours of Italo, disco and synth-pop with the ideals of futurism and the essence of emotive machine music, it created a new movement on the dance floor. Now there was a new formative connectivity between mind and body, where soaring vocals and keys tapped into new forms of expressionism, or where swirling pads and complex percussive patterns transported us to new levels of conception and possibility. This powerful new connection was felt immediately around the globe, but perhaps not as incessantly as Britain did. By the time imports arrived in the country of these new and innovative tracks from across the pond, Djs, clubs and productions changed forever, heralding in a new wave of genres and subs that continually morphed through experience, collectiveness and minor evolutions. The people lapped it up, and led to a raft of incredible and diverse music being released so consistently throughout the late 80s and early 90s. During this time, many UK based artists took the time to digest what they heard, and created their own response to it, fuelled by the ideals of a scene thousands of miles away, into something they could call their own. The IDM, drum 'n' Bass, jungle, breakbeat, rave, all genres formed in the UK but heavily influenced by the sounds of Chicago and Detroit, taking little bits from here and there and using the context to provide us with endless pools that will take millennium to fully get to grips with. What occurred not only with dynamics and rhythms within sound, but also the emotional maturing of dance music as a whole lead to undeniable moments of brilliance and elevation, that while still a feature of the 80s styles, it was harnessed with arguably greater levels of power during the deep house movement of the early 90s. This is where we land at the cross roads of a musical revolution, a moment in time that has reverberated ever since.

In many ways, Soul Connection showed the very best of the previous, the contemporary, and offered a great deal of insight into the future. A combination of intoxicating feel good vocals, chiming synth interludes and a joyous array of beat styles lead to the duo's reverence within the UK street soul genre, their knack of fusing various vibes and essences together the cornerstone for their ever lasting legacy. Consisting of producer/all round prodigy Toyin Agbetu and his friend, label head Earl Myers, the two would release two records together under the alisas, 'Rough and Ready' from 1988, and 1990's 'Raw Street Soul', and in this short time together they would help to define the easing in of new sounds and genres into one of the earliest new incarnations of British electronic music. Raw, heart on the sleeve kinds of stuff, it was the blend of groove with tonal vocal work that would define the group's sound, mixing r'n'b's slow and graceful swing with the synth pulses that generated so much excitement within the deep house community. Their formula allowed itself to be extended to many a differing structure or vibe, easily breezing through house, r'n'b, soul, hip hop, early breakbeat and many more, the sound always consisting of similar ingredients but the blend always aligned slightly differently to give off a beautifully rounded sound. Its just another stepping stone within the UK's rich legacy of original sound pioneers, and this recipe for wonderfully evocative story telling and texturally deep music would define the direction of things to come within the decade.

So, we arrive now at this new compilation that celebrates the very best off their two LPs, releasing on the incredible Invisible Inc Editions label. The Canadian imprint has done an unreal job during their existence, releasing reissues of the highest order that seem to span across lifetimes and genres, exploring wonderfully put together records or extremely rare items that fully deserve their new moment to shine. We always appreciate the records that continue to join the dots within music's rich tapestry, and the records they have reissued always link varying moments in time with such grace it's no wonder why the label decided to reissue them. From the two excellent Witch reissues, to the iconic 'Touch' single by Michael Boothman, to 'Amajovi Jovi' by Sandy B, the utterly brilliant 'Mello Magic' by Tommy Mandel, and to one of 2018's most breath taking reissues, 'Yoka Boka (For Us All)' by Jeff Majors, the label consistently does the business when it comes to high quality, genre spanning, and above all else, incessantly important reissues. More now than ever, we need the interlinks to help further contextualise our visions and creative endeavours, and gems like these help us to continually explore the back waters. So, it seems fitting that the label has decided to put together this comp for Soul Connections, six cuts that celebrate the icons of the UK street soul movement, and their eternal legacies. So lets take a dip.

Up first comes 'Change/Love', and we dive right into proceedings. The floating piano sequence delicately balances single keys with the deep chords, really providing the rhythm of the track. The vocals herald in the beginning of the lovingly curated breakbeat, that resonates underneath, permeating within the snares and the simmering cymabls/hi hats. The pads move the track into a more electronic feel, with the interplays between vocal lines, piano and synth so fluid and expertly constructed. The track vibes to the motions and notions of life, its inter connect-ability very much on show here as the track weaves its way into the imagination. The track then meanders onwards, the vocals receding to little snippets, as the full melodic score is given a go to shine. A strong opener indeed. Up next comes 'In and Out of Love', and the vibe goes down with the lights slightly faded. The instrumentals focus on the slow and steady, the chiming chords interlaced with the predominant bass riff, that grooves underneath like a classique kind of early 80s down tempo soul track. The vocals shift from the semi-conversational verses, complimenting the layered harmonies underneath perfectly, before moving into the chorus lines, which remain more full bodied and dense. Its a lovely contrast, and very much works in favour of the track's progression, operating to give over the maximum amount of heart to the listener. 'Its all Over' slides into view next, and the atmospheres of heartfelt tendencies carry over from the previous cut. The beat is slightly sped up, the bass line remains a core component, with the vocal lines moving at a faster pace, interjecting at all the right times to give over a fully bloodied narrative of heart ache and dejection. The manner in which the track moves so gracefully between the lines, its hard to not get lost within its vivid imagery creation, where the stories and narratives come alive through the nature of the structures and feels. You really feel the emotional nature come across, the deft blend of sombre keys with lamenting vocals combining so effectively. Damn.

Next comes 'R U Available', and the textures come to tell a different story. The chordal work comes across more optimistically, signalling change and hope, their broad reach and deep touch one to marvel at. The movements between the two chord progression just gives over so much life, it demonstrates how synths can give over so much passion through the most simple of transitions, its quite something. Whilst we get lost in all the mesmerising instrumental works, the vocal work on top is something else to revel in, its soft delivery once more channelling the vibes of the times, but with this unique sort of narrative that's part vocal deep house, part British sensibility, part 80s toned down funk, its quite something. Quietly compelling, on so may levels. Next up comes 'The Way Love Is', and we descend into the highest levels of house perfection. The beat and vocal hook introduce themselves, as the bass quietly adds depth to proceedings. The chiming synth grooves into the frame, the track moving softly through its progressions. The vocals remain key here, providing so much of the harmonies and melodic depth, keeping us locked in to every word and line spoken. The duo once more play on this wonderful sense of density that comes through in the words, the manner in which the lyrics switch between conservational styles and into the hook and verses keeps this cycle of narrative going so strong throughout each track. The drumming ups the ante around the 3 minute mark, as the tune moves through the notions and into the next phases of being. Harmonic delicacies never felt so good. To wrap things up on this wonderful compilation, we are welcomed by the sounds of 'Waiting 4 Your Love'. The track once again demonstrates the superb blend of stylistic and emotive choices the duo were going for with this project, a sultry journey through the worlds of highs and lows, taking us on one more journey through a environment filled with life and love, and through the boundless character that leaps from each cut. Superb.

Soul Connection were perhaps about all that; the direct channel to your soul. Its the sort of music that wells up from within, a reflection of what we all feel inside, at a point in time, where we have conservations in the mirror about our feelings, inner workings of the mind played out for us to sing along too. We get swept up not with this kind of evocative and sometimes tear jerking narrative, but with the beautiful underpinning feels that the considered and softly constructed instrumentals, hanging underneath with such grace and elegance you sometimes drift away into a blissed out paradise. Its music for the heart and the mind, and we are so blessed it has graced our ears once again.

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