Conceived at a house party in Brixton, London, England, Cuba emerged in tandem with artists such as Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx. However, the desire of partners Ashley Bates (b. 2 November 1971, Reading, Berkshire, England; ex-Chapterhouse) and Christopher Andrews to cross all manner of musical boundaries distinguished Cuba from their more-focused peers. A prolific start to 1998 in the shape of three white labels attracted the unlikely attention of 4AD Records, who released a further single ‘Cross The Line’ in July. The subsequent hiatus from the studio allowed Cuba to demonstrate their belief in a strong live show, performing with a brass section, rapper and a host of backing and guest singers at summer festivals and across Europe. Their self-produced debut, Leap Of Faith, collected all of the singles to date, and revealed the meeting of fierce beats and various improbable genres to be a hit-and-miss affair. The winding groove of ‘Peak Flow’, the brooding ‘Black Island’ (starring Shara Nelson), and the glowing, country-tinged ‘Winter Hill’ were undermined by the lack of subtlety elsewhere. The leaden guitar riffs and unsophisticated rapping on ‘Havana’ and ‘Cross The Line’ echoed the sound of Apollo 440, while the slide blues of ‘Foxy’s Den’ was evocative of the Grid. Such inconsistency led the listener to the disappointing conclusion that eclecticism was perhaps Cuba’s worst enemy.
Share this page