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What, no MC's?
on 24 September 2006
Mancunian beat wizard Andy Turner has gathered a favourable following with Aim's two studio albums and collected early works. Combining meaty beats, soulful, artfully placed samples and talented guest vocalists he has proved himself as one of Britain's best hip hop producers. His decision to drop the traditional vocal style associated with hip hop - rapping - from his new album entirely is a brave one nonetheless, and may cause concern among purists.
Going solo from Grandcentral records, Aim's third LP proper is another exercise in squelchy bass, screaming horns and Turner's own impeccable feel for the funk, with labelmate Niko providing vocals. Without the emphasis on rhymes, his music is allowed to breath and expand naturally - as his best tracks always have done.
Teaming up with Niko for so much of this album was an inspired choice. On the confident strut of Northwest she warbles beautifully about rivers and map references, while the catchy yet experimental Puget Sound finds her in a more conversational mood with country guitar licks swooning around her.
Of the instrumental tracks, Birchwood (flutes, trumpets and tubas having a dogfight) and the LP's confident opener Walking Home Through The Park are definite highlights, while Pier 57 and Landlord are both simple but effective bass-driven booty shakers, incorporating birdsong and canned laughter respectively to add something a little different.
Unfortunately there are some errors of judgement that sometimes derail the listener's appreciation. On Smile for example, a grating horn sample is overused to such an extent that it ruins what is otherwise a perfectly good tune. There are also a few too many long "atmospheric" pauses within tracks; they work well in Pinter's plays, but not on dance albums.
Despite these minor slips, Aim has produced yet another beautifully balanced LP, and has continued to move on his sound while retaining what made it so easy to listen to on Cold Water Music. The minimalist bass/piano pulse on the album's title track and the final guitar strumalong It's Later Than You Think suggest Turner is keeping his options, and his mind, open, which can only bode well for the future.