on 4 February 2014
Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Robert Glasper, Quincy Jones and Teri Lyne Carrington collaborated to write and produce an organic, dramatic chill-out album in Wales? Neither had I, but the answer is right here, and it’s compelling. From the highly regarded Edition Records stable curated by Dave Stapleton, the eponymous debut album from Slowly Rolling Camera presents a cinematic soundtrack to your life in slow motion. I listened to it at home first, and then a few days later whilst driving through England’s Peak District. It was better in the car, especially when the title track emerged majestically as I summited a hill, cruised past a sunken lake, and rode the road around a valley with the setting Cheshire sun.
The album carries itself with an unhurried grace, propelled by lazy grooves in 4, 6, 11 and 5. The lyrical content is banal, so one can’t help thinking that Dionne Bennett’s superb vocals could have shone more brightly given superior text to sing. The instruments on the album sound truly wonderful, especially the piano, double bass, bowed strings and Fender Rhodes – full marks to producer Deri Roberts here. There are examples of superb, dynamic soloing from Chris Montague (guitar), Mark Lockheart (saxes) and Elliot Bennett (drums), but the more poised ensemble moments carry the day: stand-out tracks include Two Roads, Bridge and the album’s coda, Silent Song.
With Snarky Puppy’s Family Dinner winning a Grammy, the virtuosic, multi-genre, large-ensemble album format appears to be experiencing a resurgence in 2014. Here’s hoping some well-deserved attention falls to SRC. Slowly Rolling Camera is well worth a listen. And another. And then another.
on 5 March 2014
IF YOU’RE SEARCHING for a pigeonhole in which to drop this eponymous debut release by new UK band Slowly Rolling Camera… well, you may struggle. Because, with a stirringly congruous mix of soul, electronica, trip hop, jazz, rock and soundtrack, Dave Stapleton and his associates have conceived a mesmerising yet cohesive soundscape which almost warrants a genre of its own.
There are obvious comparisons with the music of The Cinematic Orchestra and Portishead – but, somehow, this leaps beyond, into another vista. The core quartet comprises Stapleton himself as composer and keyboardist; vocalist and lyricist Dionne Bennett; Deri Roberts (producer, sound design and electronics); and drummer Elliot Bennett. But, in addition, from Stapleton’s Edition Records label, he employs the considerable skills of some of British jazz’s finest – bassist Jasper Høiby, Mark Lockheart on saxes, guitarist Chris Montague, and Neil Yates on trumpet, as well as synth player Matt Robertson – plus, important to the overall ‘widescreen’ sound, a splendid string octet. And, for the majority of the eleven numbers (with two bonus tracks), it is the commanding and enigmatic presence of Dionne Bennett, with her rich, dusky and soulful vocals, that ignites the project’s incandescent blaze.
The overriding groove of the whole album is one of smouldering intensity, as portrayed by opening track 'Protagonist' which is propelled by the complex drum patterns of Elliot Bennett and coloured with Stapleton’s Zero7-type Fender Rhodes and organ. The unmistakably animated input of guitarist Chris Montague and alto sax player Mark Lockheart add weight to the layered vocals (“you give me the air I want to need to breathe”), all expertly sound-designed by Deri Roberts. From Jasper Høiby’s pliant opening bass riff, 'Dream a Life' inhabits the world of movie soundtrack, with serene-but-edgy strings backing Dionne Bennett’s echoey, impassioned voice; and 'Rain That Falls' conjures ’007′ opening titles, lead vocal supported by the watery electric piano and high unison violins so evocative of that motion picture realm, Mark Lockheart displaying his customary, improvisatory sax eloquence. 'Bridge' is redolent of Stapleton’s successful ‘Flight’ album, his Gorecki/Pärt-sounding strings laying the foundation for Dionne Bennett’s emotional words, beautifully enhanced by Neil Yates’ heartfelt, breathy, flugel-like trumpet, before dramatically bursting into fully-fledged majesty, drums underpinning with solid, shimmering brilliance.
'Fragile Ground' is particularly strong, both in terms of writing and production. Its ominous beginnings give way to powerful multi-tracked vocals matched by intense strings and drums (Elliot Bennett brings great intricacy as well as weight to his percussion) and clanging, sustained guitar chords provide that ‘TV thriller’ feel. Stapleton clearly relishes the real Rhodes sound (no samples here), his strongly-tremulant no-thirds chords a key feature of heavy-beat 'Two Roads'; and the subtle momentum of segue River Runs Free flows beautifully into 'Rolling Clouds', an electronically-infused 11/8 instrumental featuring Montague’s sparky guitar lead and Lockheart’s sprightly soprano sax. But for a couple of bonus tracks included on the digital download, Color completes the album with Dionne Bennett’s floaty voice above swirling strings, backing vocals and electro-wizardry.
Experiencing one of the band’s early live performances, in London, I confirm that Slowly Rolling Camera create a soundworld which, if not unique, is pretty much unlike anything in our current sphere. The combination of smoky-soul vocals and cross-genre compositions – recorded and mixed by the highly regarded Andy Allan with Deri Roberts – is already creating quite a stir (with album two in development).
on 29 April 2014
If you like something a little different, something that demands you to really listen to it, something where each track gives you no clues as to what's coming next, no distractions, no disturbances, from start to finish. Try this. Stunning.
on 20 June 2014
I am a big fan of Lamb, Cinematic Orchestra and similar bands, so when someone told me about SRC and suggested I would like them, i was initially a bit skeptical - decent bands and albums like these are few and far between these days - ones that are epic and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Ones you want to hear on loop- the whole album, not just odd songs. This is one of those albums, In fact this probably tops them. I recently flew back from Hong Kong, a 13 hour flight and this album kept me sane. It is one you will not want to stop listening to. I cannot wait to see them live. I haven't been so enthusiastic about a new band in years. This album is epic!