- The Night Slugs artist draws from skilled rappers and singers on this pop-leaning album.
- I'm of the opinion that everything Kelela touches turns to gold. Philip Gamble, AKA Girl Unit, surely shares this sentiment. He emerged in the UK club circuit about a decade ago with the essential Night Slugs banger "Wut," but his transatlantic breakout happened some years later with production credits on Kelela's addictive hit "Rewind." Whether on his DJ mixes, EPs or compilation tracks, he's consistently shown Night Slugs' trademark affinity for pairing fringe UK club sounds with chart-topping elements from US hip-hop and R&B.
Song Feel, the London producer's debut LP, begins and ends with Kelela collabs. It kicks off with the duo's slow and sexy jam, "WYWD," and wraps up with that same song's upbeat birds-and-flutes remix. When two artists of such high technical prowess work together like this, it feels like two gears meshing perfectly in a machine. This gear-turning metaphor is handy for most of the album. It's jam packed with collaborations between the producer and a spectrum of skilled rappers and singers. But like the guts of a Swiss clock—or the guts of many American pop albums—it's pleasing in construction and mechanical in practice.
Other than Kelela's Midas-touch tracks, I keep returning to the album's harder edges. Ms. Boogie's verses on "Sucker Free" make it clear who's boss on the track and in the streets, filling almost every second of the song by letting scrubs and suckers know that there's no space for them to squeeze into. The Florida rapper Thast lets loose a litany of assertive declarations on "Pull Up." Bringing us back from the streets into the bedroom, Rush Davis lends his timeless vocals to "Evidence," smoothing out the song's bouncing bass nicely. "24 Hours" is a honey-dipped pop song that I'd feel fine playing to a carpool of strangers.
This album's been seven years in the making and it shows. Many of the songs, including most of the instrumentals, might've sounded fresh sometime back, but I find myself forgetting them as soon as they're played through. The beats lack the impact of his club bangers. It might be because so many artists, up-and-comers on SoundCloud and pop producers have taken note of Night Slugs' irreverence for genre and mainstream / underground dichotomies, reproducing it into oblivion. Or it could be that Gamble's sweet tooth for sugar-coated beats have gotten the best of him, trading edginess for generalized listenability. On the other hand, his work with envelope-pushing artists like Ms. Boogie and Thast does shows a foresight that can't be copied. It would be exciting to hear more collaborations coming out of Gamble's studio.
01. WYWD feat. Kelela
02. Stuck feat. Taliwhoah
03. Sucker Free feat. Ms. Boogie
05. Pull Up feat. Thast
06. Evidence feat. Rush Davis
08. 24 Hours feat. Brook Baili
10. Pure Gold
11. WYWD (Remix) feat. Kelela