Slow Train Soul

Illegal Cargo

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A near perfect combination of funk, R&B, trip-hop and jazz, Slow Train Soul meshes the smooth, chocolaty vocals of singer Lady Z. with multi-instrumentalist Morten Varano's remarkably varied sounds. Somewhat like Morcheeba but with a greater emphasis on the bluesy, cool voice of Lady Z., the duo has hit a home run with their debut. Too upbeat to be chillout but not frantic enough for the club crowd, they find the middle ground between the two. Yet the album works because the songs -- all co-written by both members -- are immediately accessible. This isn't just background music for Sunday mornings. Tunes like "Twisted Cupid" with its Tropicalia/"Girl From Ipanema" groove, sport choruses, lyrics and riffs that are beautifully crafted and instantly memorable. Lady Z.'s sensual vocals drift and hover over the music, never oversinging but holding center-stage. The electronic backing is surprisingly warm and organic, even with the brittle nature of the percussion, giving the vocals a fluffy, comfy bed to float above. The music conjures images of dark, slightly menacing streets, lit by neon and streaked with rain. The low-boil funk grabs hold on "Tell Me Somethin'" as Lady Z. overdubs backing vocals and plays a mean, slinky-'70s-style wah-wah guitar. Varana works miracles with his keyboards on "Naturally," making the bass sound like an upright acoustic and the drums sound like they're being played with brushes. Every track is immaculately produced;slick and shiny but with a beating heart underneath and just the hint of impending danger. Imagine Sade fronting Portishead and you're close to the evocative sound these two create. It's a luxurious, beautifully imagined and stellar debut that shows tremendous potential for Slow Train Soul.

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