Some music looks to the past, re-invents the wheel or perhaps merely polishes it in the hope that this new found sparkle will ensnare a new audience. Others follow fad and fashion, happy to piggyback on the current zeitgeist and try to slip through the doors that have been opened by other contemporary artists. And then there are artists like Mark James who are all about looking to the future. For although there is much that is familiar on his album, Miles Away, there is a definite feeling of moving everything forward, of striding confidently onto new horizons and leading rather than following the pack.
He takes all that is good about modern pop grooves, slick R&B addictiveness, clubland cool and even a few tricks garnered from the hip-hop sound and makes dance floor music for a new audience. But unlike many artists who think that to move things on you need some sort of revolution, Mark James is all about evolution, and it is this ability to take the familiar building blocks and weave them through his new, cutting edge soundscapes that will mean that he will create a scene without “creating a scene” if you know what I mean.
Take Tell The People, a chilled and sophisticated song that sits at the centre of this 6 track offering. It weaves soulful vibes through a lyrically tough landscape, uses clever breaks and builds to create its own dynamic and in doing so feels like the obvious successor to those socially conscious, soul-revolutionaries who kicked against the status quo in the seventies, such as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Sly and The Family Stone. But like everything found here, although it may tip its hat to the past it is more interested in making the sound of the future. Opener Angels and Demons matches spacious soundscapes and emotive vocals with strident beats and slow burning emotions, Your Holder broods with a future-retro panache and Da Cab blends tribal, island grooves with uptown urban style.
Miles Away is a clever collection of songs, one that seems to transcend individual genres and even blend the past and the present into a bright new sound for the future. It is both considered and understated but also powerful and confident. It is as cultish as it is commercial and will appeal to the mainstream pop pickers as readily as it does to the discerning underground taste-makers. It looks very much like the future of music is in very safe hands.
Find out more about Mark James, listen to the music and find all the latest news at the links below.