DJ Vadim / Katrina Blackstone

Double Sided

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The back cover of Russian breakbeat master DJ Vadim's 1997 remix collection U.S.S.R. Reconstruction contained a plea to "Support the Stop R'n'B Killing Hip Hop Movement." Two decades later, the older, wiser Vadim has long since grown out of his previous mindset, as much of his post-Ninja Tune output has tended toward soul, funk, and reggae rather than the abstract breaks and experimental hip-hop of his earlier work. 2017 effort Double Sided is a full-length collaboration with Katrina Blackstone, an American pop-soul singer who previously contributed smooth, sassy vocals to Vadim's 2014 ragga bashment Dubcatcher. The duo somewhat resemble an electro-charged version of reggae-informed indie pop duo Wild Belle, delivering sweet, yearning tunes with summery, feel-good grooves. Blackstone is a remarkably strong, confident vocalist, and she effortlessly delivers her impassioned lyrics over Vadim's beats, which are minimal enough as to not overpower the vocals, but still vividly detailed. There's a wide range of tempos and styles here, but even the slower, more grinding tracks have as much of a party vibe as the reggae-disco hustles. "Luv 2 Luv" does a lot with nothing more than a heavy funk beat, sparse guitar licks, and Blackstone's commanding vocals. Along with toaster Tiggy Tafari, Blackstone and Vadim rework Dawn Penn's 1994 dancehall classic "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" (a remake of her 1967 single "You Don't Love Me," itself based on an earlier American R&B tune), adding Blackstone's sultry taunt of "you crossed the line, boy" at the end. Another highlight is "Been Waiting All Night," which combines mellow, midtempo house beats with slightly chilling '80s synth sweeps. "That's Not Me" is a smooth, empowering jam with Blackstone and guest MC Aima the Dreamer striving to follow their superstar dreams rather than be constrained by common, day-to-day life. "How Long" has a dembow rhythm underpinning sparse rocksteady organ riffs, dancehall chatting, and dubby echo, referencing several generations of reggae while still remaining a tight, focused pop song. Double Sided proves to be an abundantly fruitful collaboration, letting the dynamic Blackstone take the spotlight while Vadim works his magic, providing forward-thinking yet very accessible and inviting production.

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