XL Recordings honcho's showcase of rising stars

Everything Is Recorded is a project by XL Recordings' boss Richard Russell.
Everything Is Recorded is a project by XL Recordings' boss Richard Russell.PHOTO: XL RECORDINGS

The name Everything Is Recorded will not ring a bell, but music aficionados may be familiar with the acts signed by Richard Russell, the honcho of the British independent label, XL Recordings.

The 45-year-old is the visionary label founder, musician and producer who has a knack for talent-scouting, taking on board Adele (now its biggest-selling star), as well as Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Sigur Ros, M.I.A. and Radiohead.

Everything Is Recorded is his latest collaborative project, coming after his stellar production work on Damon Albarn's solo album Everyday Robots (2014) and the last and final album by American soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron, I'm New Here (2010).

Close But Not Quite is the first release under this project and a perfect taster for Russell's forward- looking aesthetics and a showcase of new signees under his label.

Appropriately, the title track is a duet between generations, a continuum that connects the invisible dots.

Rising British soul star Sampha takes centre stage, all the more intriguing considering the singer's reluctance to be in the limelight.

  • ELECTRONIC

  • CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE EP

    Everything Is Recorded

    XL Recordings

    4/5 stars

"I'm not one to go to church/But you made me believe in something more than hurt," he sings, opening his heart up over delicate ivories and softly paddled drums.

His fragile falsetto seamlessly blends into that of the late American soul legend Curtis Mayfield, whose 1970s classic song, The Makings Of You, provides the emotional fulcrum for the track.

"Of these words I've tried to recite/They are close but not quite," Mayfield croons, to which Sampha replies: "I'm so misunderstood."

It is a dialogue between two men who would never meet and now are connected through the same vulnerability.

The same principle applies to Early This Morning, which takes its title from a sample from Scott- Heron's song, Me And The Devil. London rapper Giggs moans about race and the war between good and evil in an ominous salvo of urban anomie.

Scott-Heron comes in mid-way, intoning: "Early this morning/ When you knocked upon my door/And I said: 'Hello Satan/I believe it's time to go'."

Elsewhere, Russell corrals London experimental electronic artist Obongjayar and Australian veteran Warren Ellis from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds for a creepy, apocalyptic vision in Washed Up On The Shores.

The alternative R&B doozie D'elusion features a motley crew comprising Infinite, soul singer and son of rapper Ghostface Killah; Major Lazer singer-dancer Mela Murder; and Green Gartside of British cult synth-pop band Scritti Politti.

Russell said in a recent interview: "I'm drawn to uncompromising people... I'm drawn to people who have their way of doing things that they're willing to put themselves on the line for."

Based on this EP, one can expect more intriguing output in the coming months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Perfect taste of things to come'. Print Edition | Subscribe