A boundary-breaking, British soul vocalist beyond your wildest expectations, Jamie Lidell is set to affirm his long-simmering musical ascendancy with his new album Multiply. With it, he has evolved into a prodigious performer, fusing elements that evoke several giants of the music world without ever appearing derivative.
Jamie Lidell has been shocking audiences for the past three years with his extraordinary live shows; which careen from glitzy Funkadelic extravaganza to hard electronic avant-garde showpieces. He was top draw at Sonar (Barcelona) and Ether Festivals (London) of recent years, performing at Ether juxtaposed with the London Sinfonietta, a bill that has toured to sold out coliseums and major performance houses across Europe.
A peerless vocal performer; his largely improvised shows have won him thousands of fans from Belfast to Tokyo. Reviewers have likened him to “a 21st century reincarnation of Little Richard” with “a soul voice fried in honey like Sly Stone or Prince, and a beatboxing talent to make Muhammad Ali quake in his Everlast”, delivering time and again “a thrilling, visceral performance”, “pure, visceral power: a scintillating display of demented musical and physical energy”, both “exhilarating” and “astounding”. Jamie Lidell is British music’s best kept secret, about to be unleashed.
His genre-blending live experience is both captivating and passionate – building tracks by expertly sampling and layering loops of his voice and shifting effortlessly from deranged beat boxing to soulful funk.
Those who have witnessed his skills can attest to the exhilarating and anarchic abandon of his risk-taking, daredevil vocal endeavours. To watch is to be privy to Lidell harnessing the essence of pure spontaneous creativity.
Be mindful that no Jamie Lidell live performance is complete without visuals maestro Pablo Fiasco, a scion of the film underground. Using an array of samplers, cameras, electronic gizmos, costumes, masks, and film and video projectors, they cut up sounds and images in a pandemonious whirlwind, with Lidell manipulating and sparring with his own vocals, dressed in a range of "media suits" – costumes made of video tape, CDs, and even 16mm film. Each goading the other on to new and wilder heights, theirs is a true multimedia happening without parallel.
Some may also know Lidell from his previous work in Super_Collider, the tricksy techno-funk outfit he helmed with Cristian Vogel. A good few will recall his smokey crooner vocals on Matthew Herbert's Big Band project, where he took centre stage with the Big Band supporting Bjork, which included dates at Madison Square Gardens, and the Hollywood Bowl. And hardy warehouse rave survivors will have happy memories of his role in underground techno assaults in London.
But it is on Multiply that Jamie Lidell has finally come into his own as a vocalist, songwriter and producer. Upon moving to the creative hub of Berlin in the early 00s, Lidell quickly fell in with likeminded artists based there, including the Canadian musician Mocky, who not only encouraged Lidell to follow his heart when it came to recording Multiply, but became an important songwriting foil.
Multiply is a pantheon to soul music, a panoply of melodic styles sparkling with soulful motifs. Assimilating tender ballads, funk, and dripping with honeyed street-corner harmonies, Multiply is a work of intensive retrospection, where Lidell deftly delves into the past and forges something fresh and uplifting – Multiply is seething with raw power and burning with sensitivity.
"What electronic music is lacking," states Lidell with quiet confidence, " is just a cool song that's not trying to prove anything or compete in a sonic space race."
The album opens with the funky pop of "You Got Me Up": a catchy and celebratory sunny Sunday morning track that could have been written by Curtis Mayfield for Sly Stone, Lidell then moves to the title track "Multiply" with it's doo-wop backing vocals, and sparse Otis Redding melody and guitar picking.
"When I Come Back Around" is a post disco pop-dervish that shimmers with 80s synth keyboards. "A Little Bit More" is a brooding piece of pulsing sexual energy, with vocals that sway from falsetto to a simmering R & B where Lidell expresses his discontent, yet he remains firmly in control.
"What Is It This Time" is a ballad yearning for a love less complicated, with Lidell's mystified voice fracturing as he frenetically yelps "WHAT!?" to a frustrating lover. Lidell the singular figure, twisting the sounds and rephrasing the question to exhaustive ends.
The ironically titled "Music Will not Last" is a beatific blast unashamedly borrowing from an early Motown palette. And the dark and sinister "The City" carries an ominous message held together by a descending bassline underpinning the lines "the city doesn't like you, it never did, won't stop won't stop, till it's got you on your knees" while a frenzied pummelling drum propels this claustrophobic track.
"Game for Fools" is a beautifully melancholic ballad that perfectly casts Lidell's voice in a track that stands confidently between Sam Cooke and Al Green, but the delivery is all Jamie Lidell, with an exquisite mournful upright bass, played by songwriting partner Mocky.
Jamie Lidell has finally produced a set of delectable songs that highlight his myriad vocal talents, and these he has burnished with his electronic production wizardry that happily competes on a level playing field with any name producer you care to mention. The tracks acknowledge his strengths as a singer, fitting his voice like a soft glove; sometimes exuding a velvety voiced confidence, and other times admitting a brittle and very human frailty.
"This time I just want to present my daytime face" Lidell concludes, "to bring on something that people might want to play when they wake up in the morning, or at a barbeque.
“Music for a little living and a little loving."