Alton Miller: Light Years Away
Mixed Signals Music

A beautiful collection of seductively soulful deep house from Alton Miller, Light Years Away weaves vocal and instrumental cuts into a set that goes down about as smoothly as could be imagined. Crafted over a two-year period, the recording packs fourteen pieces (two of them interludes) into a fully satisfying album experience, especially when so many of the songs feature soulful vocals (by Abacus, Stephane Vera, Angelique, Angel-A, and Miller himself) that make the tracks all the more appealing.

Miller's, of course, an old master at this stage of the game, with more than a hundred recordings on Serious Grooves, Peacefrog, R2 Records, Octave Lab, Yore, and others under his belt, and as such it doesn't surprise that Light Years Away is so solid. It's also music refreshingly free of cynicism and despair that suggests Miller hasn't let the challenges of the music business render him bitter and jaded. Though he sweetens the tracks' beatific house grooves with analog synthesizers and rich percussive flavour, the album is at times “old school” in its inclusion of natural instruments like congas and clavinet, but “old school” needn't mean dated, as Light Years Away 's timeless sound is anything but. “Ever Wonder” adorns its sleek house-funk groove with subtle synth touches and Abacus's soulful vocal presence, while “Stars in Your Eyes” is silken soul-funk balladry of the kind that would appeal to fans of The Foreign Exchange. Changing things up, the vocal synth-based funk of “Come On Over” calls groups like Cameo and The Ohio Players to mind, whereas the spacey “Twilight Moments” heads out into the galaxy with a voiceover by Lotus as tour guide. It's a warm and breezy ride from start to finish brimming with slinky, house-flavoured funk workouts (“Inner 5 Next Phase,” “I Can Feel You All Around”) and hypnotic serenades (“Give It Up,” “Late Night Fantasy,” “Together”).

April 2011