Akabu: The Phuture Ain't What It Used To Be
Z Records

The Phuture Ain't What It Used To Be might be the debut album by Akabu but the man behind the decks, Dave Lee, is no ingénue. The British DJ and producer began his production career in 1990 and has released material under many aliases, including Joey Negro, Jakatta, Doug Willis, Raven Maize, The Sunburst Band, Sessomatto, and Z Factor. On the thirteen-song collection, Lee brings a goodly number of collaborators (Boomclap Bachelors, Andre Lodemann, Foremost Poets, Tony Momrelle, Tanya Michelle, and Joel Edwards) aboard for a splendid hour-long foray into deep house that pays homage to a host of producers from various camps, including Larry Heard, Martin Buttrich, and Carl Craig.

The album's vibe is warm and deep from the start. The title cut plunges the listener into an '80s-styled wonderland with fiery banks of retro-synths buoyed by a slamming disco pulse and Joel Edwards' soulful exhortations. Things turn downright acidy when Foremost Poets (aka Chicagoan Johnny Dangerous) emotes over the deep house boogie of “Crystalized,” after which Jim Knight unleashes some mighty sax riffing on—what else?—“Sax My Bitch Up,” his wail a hard-charging complement to the tight groove steaming underneath. Norway's Boomclap Bachelors drape their falsetto vocals across the sleek, Detroit-inflected funk-house jam “You Want It All,” a sampled conversation from True Blood celebrating Dionysian experience introduces the trippy interlude “A Little Bit of Kaos,” and the spectacular wail of Paris-based Canadian soul singer Tanya Michelle sends the album highlight “Behind The Mask” soaring.

Just past the halfway mark, Lee begins dialing down the intensity. Harp strums and orchestral strings lend “Another World” an ethereal air, and the jazzy tune's laid-back, summery vibe is heightened by the shimmer of Rhodes piano. UK soul singer Tony Momrelle, who obviously soaked up his share of Stevie Wonder when growing up, takes a bravura vocal turn on “Life Is So Strange,” and Knight returns to blow again o'ertop the acid house jam “Another Generation” before a reprise of the opening track brings the album full circle. What ultimately elevates The Phuture Ain't What It Used To Be most isn't its storming meld of retro and future sounds but the infectious spirit of joyful exuberance that pours forth from the material.

November 2010