Review: LV & Joshua Idehen – Routes LP
There’s been a recent surge in the blending of those fabled genres. That old chestnut eh? Whatchu call it – 2 step? Whatchu call it urban? No? Garage? Enough already.
We generally dislike getting too caught up in categorising music, because it can so often become a neeky and reductionist route to analysing music. But for the purposes of explanation; if you were to take one chunk of 2-step viz MJ Cole circa mid 90’s, mash in some home-cooked house synths reminiscent of vintage Todd Edwards, throw in some retro bass licks melded with the more gravely bass hooks of the golden era garage movement, stick some artful and, importantly, considered poetic vocal stylings in a North London vernacular and scatter them all over the top you’ve come only some way to beginning to describe what it is this trio of LV & guest vocalist and self proclaimed Hackney-ite Joshua Idehen are doing right now. It’s London-centric in just about every sense. The overall sound is innovative to say the very least, there is a lot going on, yet never too much. The production has clarity and space to allow the vocals to outmaneuver the cascading sonic debris all around, indeed Idehen’s voice becomes more than just that; it is an additional ingredient for the mix rather than the lyrical ‘jelly on the toast’ as guest vocalists so often are. This was never going to be an easy one to tackle, with such a plethora of musical influences swaggering about all over the place, with all the savvy of a lean Lee Scratch Perry. There is a fruitful blend at work here, a carefully thought out smorgasbord of musical styles that in union defy such lame categorisation. Suffice to say that LV’s sound, further to the initial 2step and bass tags, also features hints of minimal and early chicago house, and even dub and reggae sensibilities that are evident, to varying extents, throughout the LP. Whether it be through sub-bass use or on the accents on the upbeat, these considered devices come across most obviously in ‘Lean Back’ and ‘Murkish Delights’.
The last offering ‘38 EP’ was a nod to London transport, something a lot of us who live there can relate to. It’s accessible in that sense, no pun. Routes is therefore a logical progression, L.V provide the fusing of staggered beats, looped vocals, stabbing key synths (Idehen: “the keyboard is my spear, steer clear”), haunting string arrangements, wobbling bottom end, melodic high end keys and synths on tracks like Lean Back. Idehen takes a poetic approach to his vocals, he is more than another Garage MC exhaling rhymes about the usual girls, clubs and fisticuffs. Instead, Idehen explores the experience of travel and transport in the capital throughout the album: there is the robotic “get on the, get on the northern line, get on the northern line” arguably a parody of the slightly snobby and patronising ‘mind the gap’ announcers frequently found on the tube – but reclaimed here for the garage generation. ‘Talk Talk’ could be about anything, but the general impression is that it might be about the myriad use of mobile technology and the inane chat you tend to hear on public transport. The high end synth work even sounds like punching numbers into a keypad… And that ringing sound near the start? Draw your own conclusions is what LV and Idehen seem to be saying here. Standout track ‘Melt’ is possibly our favourite, with exceptional lines like: “Barely escaped my youth, landed in this recording booth” and “Grew up on chicken and parable, need an AKA on Channel U”. For those of you who ‘dun-know’, Channel U is the route that many unsigned London urban artists, for want of a much better collective term, promote their wares on the first and lowest media rung of largely inaccessible MTV ladder. This carries even more permutations for the record’s namesake as a result. Idehen also claims that he’ll “make do with the hand I’m dealt, underneath no heat would I ever melt.” Making music that is largely spurned by the likes of Radio 1 and such, but garnering support from the likes of Rinse FM and 1xtra, it seems that Idehen is right in stating that that artists pushing these less commercially viable musical strains aren’t getting an easy ride, but that’s what they expect and that is the symptomatic side effect of audio integrity these days.
One of the most heavy hitting songs on the album is ‘Primary Colours’ – whether a nod to the lighting systems in most clubs, or the TFL’s colour scheme, is utterly sumptuous. Vocal hooks, mis-en-place moist synth work a la early rave-house, coupled with digitally piercing treble shanks make it a carousing titillating delight. The only regret here is that at 1min 59secs, it’s just not long enough! We found ourselves sticking this bad boy on repeat, feeling the fleeting pleasure of the track – which echoes the temporary voyages on public transport in relation to the album title, yet on another level it works to articulate the essential flaw in hedonism; that it is fleeting, and the listener is always yearning for that apex of the night where they found their height of enjoyment. There is so much to say about what is actually the shortest track on the album, and we think this speaks volumes about ‘Routes’ as a whole. The fact that the trio are signed to Kode 9’s Hyperdub label also makes perfect sense; this is a sound that most people don’t know about, but ought to; a maxim for the ethos of the label. The collaboration of the two creative forces coming from such separate worlds in terms of music is an exciting prospect, L.V bringing the production structures and Joshua Idehen supplying the poetic vocal decor. The juxtaposition of these two approaches is one that should be welcomed and celebrated.
STREAM: LV & Joshua Idehen - Melt
LV & Joshua Idehen – Routes. Out now.