Shapin' Fluid

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Orin Walters is a head figure in London's Bugz in the Attic crew, a loose collection of producers whose highly rhythmic version of jazz- and funk-infused breakbeat has been tagged "broken beat." And while the name is already being scorned by most of its key players, Shapin' Fluid is without a doubt one of the finest examples of this sub-subgenre. The hyperactive beat of "Work It" features shouts by Tittla that recall ragga-jungle with much more refinement. Actually, the whole premise of this broken beat thing might just be former drum'n'bass producers finally making good on the '70s soul and funk influences they've always given lip service to, but whose sound was usually lost in the tough-as-nails drum patterns and basslines. Walters recognizes this transition in the brief "Cosmic Birth" interlude, during which the futuristic bass sounds of jungle make way for the sweet folk-soul of "Just a'nutha Day." The soul connection is present everywhere on the record; in the sidewalk strut of "Take You There" and the blaxploitation wah-wah guitar of "Shapin' Fluid." There's even a veiled Stevie Wonder reference in "Outta Range (3 Billion Light Years from Home)," the title of which harkens back to "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away," while musically, the song's analog synthesizer freakout owes immeasurable debt to Wonder's 1970s keyboard exploration. Walters' extensive use of live instruments gives the proceedings a warmth and looseness that is rarely found in programmed music. Moogs warble and strings flare up with abandon. Inspired by the jungle-soul of forerunners 4hero and the techno-jazz of Innerzone Orchestra, Shapin' Fluid does just that, giving a tight and uplifting form to the myriad of ever-changing sonic ideals, all based, to quote James Brown, "On the one!"

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