The England-born, Nashville-residing experimentalist Jamie Lidell has crafted a sound of psychedelic soul on his new self-titled LP via Warp. With shards of color and wavy synth lines, Lidell takes us into his world of cosmic twists and forces us to dance it out in an epic collaboration of man and machine. Over a decade since his electronic dance album Muddlin Gear, his fifth full-length release implies a new beginning, which effectively sees Lidell remodeled as an apostle of ’80s funk and pop soul.
The follow-up to 2010’s Compass, the new album was recorded and mixed at Lidell’s home studio in Nashville, and in true Lidell style, it sees mixed elements of voice, percussion and funk-laced grooves. The opening blast of “I’m Selfish” is a driving, smooth-voiced pop number whose weighty live drum hits below and lighter synthesizer flashes above broaden the rhythm’s range. Atop bubbling synths, Lidell sings, “Used to make it all about me/’Cause baby I’m selfish.” “Big Love” rides in on a cheesy drum-machine beat before swerving toward catchy electro pop, while “What A Shame” is Lidell weirdness at its best, with a booming bass and squelchy synths under his falsetto whine. Similarly in “You Naked,” Lidell pushes his vocal abilities to the surface. Above overworked synthesizers, he cries, “You’re making me crazy with the things that you do.”
On “why_ya_why,” Lidell wraps speakeasy undertones of dampened bass and trumpet solos within a punchy, almost trippy case that feels like stepping on a trembling tightrope. The retro-come-dubstep track brings together disparate musical influences in the vein of Bobby Brown and P-Funk architect George Clinton. Over sassy trumpet lines, Lidell says, “I don’t know why you want to stay at home,” expressing the energetic, coy nature of the whole album. It’s one that sees authentic soul infused with digital production flourishes. Consequently the pace slows down on the alluring and pensive tracks “Don’t You Love Me” and “Blaming Something,” providing a welcomed break from the hard funk just as Lidell says, “Daddy, you’re the one to blame.”
Where his previous works felt desperately FM-ready, Jamie Lidell is full of trips and turns, an exuberant mix of soul and electronics. Lidell’s experimental urges are faultlessly controlled, and his silken voice remains at the surface, not muddled by over-worked loops or percussion. It’s altogether more synchronized, an album that pulls you along into its wonderfully mixed-up world without getting lost. It may have taken him 10 years to get there, but this is the true Jamie Lidell.