Safety in Numbers

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Numbers leader Demus has significant ties to the U.K.'s acid jazz phenomenon of the early '90s, which will be enough info to send plenty running for the hills without giving this album the slightest of chances. That's a shame, because Safety in Numbers was one of the best in a minor glut of broken beat full-lengths released during 2001 -- and it even managed to slip through the cracks somewhat within the scene it inhabits. It might not have the ambition or scope of 4hero's Creating Patterns, but like that album, the bulk of the material is song-based and unafraid of mutating its influences. The drawing points -- Rotary Connection, jazz-funk, fusion, Afro-beat, late-'70s/early-'80s R&B, drum'n'bass -- are certainly there, but at no point does it fall lazily into the copycat clich├ęs and forced sophistication that acid jazz (and even a good percentage of broken beat) blissfully bathed itself in. Demus executes the production and some of the instrumentation, while a small cast provides valuable support. Mardou Fox, Priscilla Jones, and Doug and Jean Caramounce rotate on vocal duties, and it's the vocals that help make over half the tracks here instantly memorable. Something also has to be said for Demus' intricate, unpredictable drum programming, which ranks up there with the likes of Marc Mac (4hero, Nu Era), Alex Attias (Mustang), Dominic Stanton (Domu), and Orin Walters (Afronaught). If anything, Safety in Numbers shows that Demus is one of broken beat's most unrecognized and underutilized talents.

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