“I love a tracky banger as much as the next person, but the older I get, the more I feel that music has to have some heart in it,” Jabru says, explaining the soulful energy behind his debut album for Purple City Soufflé, ‘Ill Conceived’. The DJ/producer from Exeter (who prefers to keep his real name under wraps) has been making beats for many years, with dub-inflected releases for JD Twitch’s Bucky Skank label and Tom Middleton’s Sound Of The Cosmos, and broken beat tracks for Today, Tomorrow Records. With Hackman, Jabru made the well-regarded, sampladelic house of 2013 EP ‘Bruh Jackman’, for Futureboogie.
Jabru’s first full-length, though, consolidates his many influences and adds a star cast of vocalists, imparting a human warmth and depth to his electronic rhythms. Acclaimed UK R&B singer Joel Culpepper lends his honeyed tones to the buzzing synth bass and crisp beats of ‘Church Redux’, while Joshua Idehen, known for his spoken word poetry and MCing for LV and Sons Of Kemet, laces the moody late-night hip-hop of ‘Egress’ with his distinctive tones.
Merging hallucinatory electronic shimmers with emotive melodies, you can hear everything from Madlib to Aphex Twin or Reload in Jabru’s tracks. “I’m into organic instrument sounds and psychedelic spacey synth sounds equally,” Jabru says. “In my world, there’s no reason why the two can’t synergise and thrive.” In tunes like ‘State Of Flow’, with its loping beat and splintered Amen break drum fills, there’s also a touch of the wonkiness present in the skewed hip-hop productions of J Dilla or Samiyam. “Perfection is boring in music, imperfection is where the fun lies and for me where the real soul is,” he says.
Jabru’s eclectic productions are the result of the many musical influences he was exposed to growing up in the south-west of England. A hip-hop head first, free parties and outdoor raves thrown by soundsystems such as Lazy House and DIY got him hooked on four-four rhythms, and he produced dubstep for a spell, too. “I’ve always listened to all sorts,” Jabru says. “Aphex Twin, Global Communication and Skitz were big influences from down this way. If I wasn’t putting on a UK hip-hop night, I’d be out raving in a field somewhere.”
In its second half, ‘Ill Conceived’ changes focus, revelling in Jabru’s knack for electronic beats. ‘Oddity’ is a serpentine twist of mystic synth notes and chattering drums, ‘Ms Jones & I’ nods to his love of aquatic house, and ‘First Place Loser’ is a lithe, swung out breakbeat caper with minimalistic smears of Rhodes keyboard. Though the album is musically diverse, each track is connected by Jabru’s distinctive psychedelic soul touch, something honed over years of production craft.
“Hopefully the album is like chucking a rock in the pond rather than dropping loads of pebbles at opposite ends,” he says in reference to the eclectic nature of his previous single releases. “People can find the path that joins the dots.”