And the beat goes on

Like last year’s first volume, Africanism II (House Afrika/CCP) is “Africanised and mixed” by experienced South African spinner Vinny da Vinci, but the content comes from prominent international producers like DJ Gregory and Bob Sinclar (who oversee the 12-inch series on Sinclar’s Yellow Productions label).

While a version is available internationally, for the African version, which was released in July, Da Vinci slowed the tempo slightly (but admits that it’s still “quite pacy” for the like-it-slow local market) and altered the sequence, reshuffling so that the tracks that are going to do the most damage here are up front.

Da Vinci got the chance to see Gregory in action in July when he made what has become an annual pilgrimage to party isle Ibiza. He DJed at an Africanism party at legendary Pacha, dropping a four-hour opening set for him and Sinclar. “The night went swimmingly,” Da Vinci says of the occasion. “I started deeper and Gregory just built from where I left off. He played a real concoction — old-school disco, tribal, deep house — that works for him, and the crowd.”

Since Gregory’s name surfaced on these shores (when his Tormet D’amour and Edony were included on the Channel O House Explosion mix) it’s been the one on everyone’s lips, and his records consistently mine dance-floor gold. South African audiences should hopefully get to appre-ciate Gregory’s reputed spinning prowess later this year — he’s been pencilled in for shows in Johannesburg and Durban.

A real connection exists between Gregory hits like Soldiers (one of the more persistent and hypnotic titles on this collection) and the preferred sounds in South Africa. In fact, Afro-funk has globally been one of the more popular dance-floor varieties of the new millennium and, alongside the likes of Osunlade, Masters at Work and our own Brothers of Peace (with their own material and contributions on work from Mafikizolo, DJ Vetkuk and others), Gregory is one of its leading lights.

This said, Africanism II is less overtly “tribal” than the platinum-selling previous volume. “It’s more progressive,” Da Vinci explains. “More in line with what’s going down in Europe [where tastes are leaning towards electro and progressive disco].” But for Gregory, the series was never about “being African” anyway; it was “much more related to primitive art, which means very basic stuff”, he told the Burn It Blue website a while back.

“When we did [the first] Africanism [we did it] very fast and without promotion and just to make people dance — just for the clubs.” The minimal ethic generally smashes the target, and Gregory’s enormous productions spark a frenzy in clubs from Nantes to Nairobi and New York.

Other tunes on this collection likely to cause tremors include Gregory’s collaboration with Julien Jabre (as Soha), Takemussa, and Jabre’s own Soul Conga. Fellow Francophone Martin Solveig supplies Heartbeat (a Euro-angled version of his anthemic Heart of Africa) and the likes of Liquid People, Wisniak and Sumo fare well trading disparate riffs and references atop pounding drums.

Despite the inevitable shortcomings of a collection that tries to encompass a lot of a label’s facets — and the fact that the label itself specialises in quickly composed and disseminated music concocted to set the body in motion — it’s patchy but as infectious as a summer cold. — Greg Bowes

Dave Matthews: Some Devil (BMG)

After five studio albums and many live releases, Dave Matthews has finally committed his singular musical vision to disc. His debut solo album is 14 tracks strong (including an acoustic version of the single Gravedigger) and all are, not surprisingly, lyrically and musically vicarious. The voice is unmistakable, but Matthews pushes the boundaries of his vocal ability, pitching way above the typical monotone, mumbled murmur to which we have become accustomed over the past decade. He delivers songs that were written with his band in mind, but somehow shirked the mould. Occasional saxophone and a rhythm section as smooth as silk glide below Dodo, and Up and Away borders on a Jamaican slow jam. Produced by Stephen Harris, the man responsible for the Dave Matthews Band’s Busted Stuff, the album delivers definition, complemented by the host of guest stars, including Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and Tim Reynolds, who spreads his six-string acoustic magic throughout. Eclectic at times, yet downright addictive — this is Matthews as accessible as you are ever likely to find him. — Jason Curtis

Finley Quaye: Much More Than Much Love (Sony)

This is a polished, confident return for Quaye. But it’s lightweight, restaurant-music stuff. And boring, despite the big production. His first album, Maverick A Strike, sounded really fresh, and became one of the soundtracks to the summer of ’97 (or was it ’98?). Much was made of his “return” in the British press lately and how he had thrown off his bad boy image. I liked him better as a bad boy — at least his music was more interesting, and lyrical. Sure, there are a few pretty songs here, like the catchy Face to Face or the simple love song This Is How I Feel, but come Christmas, you’ll have forgotten them. — Matthew Burbidge

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