Rae & Christian - Mercury Rising
Production duo return with album of electronic-tinged folk and pop collaborations
(Night Time Stories)
It is fifteen years since Mark Rae and Steve Christian released the Mercury Award-nominated Northern Sulphuric Soul, a début which drew comparisons with Massive Attack’s Blue Lines thanks to its slick combination of hip hop and soul.
Their 2001 follow-up, Sleepwalking followed a similar musical blueprint, both albums characterised by their impressive array of guests, including Bobby Womack, The Pharcyde, The Jungle Brothers and Jeru The Damaja, and The Congos.
Taking a lengthy break from recording together, Rae went on produce two solo albums and also relocated to Los Angeles for a time, while Christian’s been involved with renowned jazz label, Verve, the pair eventually reuniting four years ago to begin work on Mercury Rising.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, the end result shows just how accomplished a studio pairing the duo are, expertly combining their chosen palette of musical elements and influences to create a sound more centred on electronic-tinged folk and pop this time round, a point emphasised by their choice of collaborators.
Bar the appearance of Jazzy Jeff and Agent 86’s scratching skills on ‘Check The Technique’ and Mystro, Masta Ace, Pete Simpson’s rhymes atop ‘A2B’, the input of starrier, hip-hop and soul names has been replaced by a number of talented, but less well known artists and singers, a change that better highlights the pair’s increased focus on songwriting.
Infectious opener, ‘Happy’, offers a perfect illustration of this, Mark Foster’s cheery vocal soaring over a shuffling groove, amidst whistling, acoustic guitar and keys; ‘1975’ transforms from a tech-house groove into an epic folk-style ode to redemption lost on Berlin’s underground sung by Sam Genders of Diagrams.
Elsewhere, Gita Langley, Ed Harcourt and Kate Rogers sing on ‘Still Here’, ‘The Ballad of Roza Shanina’ and ‘Still Life Freefall’ respectively, these three tracks othe best examples of Rae and Christian’s shift in musical direction, the duo also showing off their ability to craft catchy pop on the Jake Emlyn sung, ‘Favourite Game’.