The shock of the new? Always a good thing. And no one sounds like Blue Lab Beats. The way into the sound was hearing one half of the duo David Mrakpor, top left in the publicity photo above, live in a small Tottenham venue in north London the laidback Post Bar last week grooving in trombonist James Lawrence's band Electro Nomads. Since then I have returned to We Will Rise often and get new things from it each time I return.
Riff alchemy on one level and beat blending the mood on another, the style however is non-purist and a shape-shifter on many levels equally applicable for jazz fans or the completely non-attached who might probably be more into DJs or African music. As for Mrakpor I don't think I have been as inspired in a long time hearing someone new live.
You can't really pin him down because on the record it's his guitar playing that stands out as well as his phenomenal piano playing. I guess first and foremost he is a world class jazz pianist but there's a lot going on. On the guitar side I was thinking Ronny Jordan a bit in terms of the way he comes over with an original riff that you can cling on to without even trying. But he is no way slick. And yet then, like last week, hearing him play keys like he's up there with Robert Glasper almost already and that's not all.
Nearly everything on this EP works, only the last track 'Tempting Dance 2' is not as convincing as the rest, small point, it's more of a party sound and not as vital but the thing is overall that what Blue Lab Beats do is to be deadly serious in terms of their musicianship but also fun and accessible in the way they communicate. With jazz and African sounds as well as strands of hip-hop coming together on the London scene as a regular thing getting ever more prominence in recent years Blue Lab Beats manage to sound both familiar and different at the same time. Because this is an EP and so not the length that most jazz fans prefer, ie LP-length, it might not be enough quantity-wise for the whole picture to emerge and yet you get a sense of something complete even bearing this in mind. Beatmaker NK-OK, top right, has confected a new sound drawing partly on boom-bap (eg like KRS-One a bit) with Mrakpor or Mr DM in Blue Lab Beats-speak. The pick is definitely 'Blow You Away (Delilah)' featuring Ghetto Boy and the 'Great Lemon interlude' is bliss. SG