Joseph Malik – Diverse Part 2 (3 stars)

Joseph Malik – Diverse Part 2

Edinburgh singer, songwriter and producer's first album in 12 years is steeped in vintage soul, blues and jazz

Joseph Malik's Part 2 is steeped in vintage soul, blues and jazz. What saves it from retro pastiche is its hip hop sensibility, both in terms of its production techniques, and its overall attitude. The Edinburgh-based singer, songwriter and producer was a member of Scottish hip hop crew Black'anize, and together with Saleem Andrew McGroarty aka Awunsounds, contributed 'Miles Out Of Time' to Mo Wax's definitive trip hop compilation, 'Headz, in 1994. His homegrown approach to sample selection and beat-making distinguishes his sound from that of the US neo-soul scene, or Mark Ronson's work with Amy Winehouse: there's a comparable mix of live instrumentation and technology, but it's less swathed in weed smoke than the former, and less polished than the latter.

The instrumental 'Malcolm X Strings' opens the album with a cinematic sweep, evoking the luscious orchestration of Curtis Mayfield and Donny Hathaway. 'Love Bound' loops a David Axelrod sample into a symphonic soul vamp, all plangent horns, clipped guitars and harp. Malik's voice cuts across it all with an urgent plea: 'I can't give you what you want, what have I got to do?' The romantic anguish continues on 'But I'm lost, not found', with Malik's voice aching over a Southern soul waltz.

Malik introduces more contemporary electronic sounds in the album's second half. The symphonic soul of 'Awakening' is graced by fluttering synths, while the chugging Chicago blues of 'Take A Left' is enlivened by throbbing electronic bass. The latter track's sleazy trombone sets us up for the soul jazz of ' Vanguard', with crowd chatter sampled from The Temptations' 'Psychedelic Shack' enhancing the late night club feel. It all comes together on 'Basquiat', where Malik blends Latin jazz, beats and dubwise electronics. It's fascinating to hear Malik making these connections, as he forges his own kind of 21st century soul.

Out now on Ramrock Red Records.

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