Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Bárbaro
Sweet soul & blues with overtones of folk & gospel
Producer, musician, DJ and composer Quantic and singer/songwriter Alice Russell are two of the UK’s best loved independent artists. Through their respective solo projects and various acclaimed collaborations over the last decade, they have become leading lights of the international funk, soul and alternative dance music scene.
The two all-time biggest selling artists on Tru Thoughts records, the label that brought them together, Quantic and Alice Russell have each captured the World’s imagination not just for their natural born talents but for their unique and refreshingly passionate take on their craft, with an authentic yet creative approach. They both played a pivotal role in the UK’s funk and soul resurgence of the early 2000s (out of which sprang which spawned the hits of the likes of Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse and Adele). With ever-growing international fanbases, sell-out tours, and coverage across the World’s music and cultural media they are now well established artists; Quantic released a critically acclaimed ‘Best Of’ compilation last year, celebrating 11 years and 14 albums on Tru Thoughts, while Alice Russell regularly plays to thousands both at home and abroad, and is recording her fifth longplayer.
2012 sees the release of ‘Look Around The Corner’, the first ever full collaborative album from these two musical soulmates. The sound of this intoxicating record mixes sweet soul and blues with overtones of folk and gospel, and the inimitable swing of Quantic’s world-renowned outfit the Combo Bárbaro, who form the core band. Recording at Quantic’s Sonido del Valle studio in his adopted home city of Cali, Colombia, producer/musician Quantic and singer/songwriter Russell had the space and time to revel in their creative chemistry, revisiting and building on the spirit of their previous collaborative tracks which have peppered the last decade (big hitters include “Pushin’On” for Quantic Soul Orchestra and “Sweet Calling” for Russell’s solo project). For legions of hopeful fans around the World, this is the culmination of a tense will-they-won’t-they storyline, and ‘Look Around The Corner’ proves good things come to those who wait.
The first single – the album’s title track – has been added to the official BBC 6Music Playlist for daily rotation, amongst a raft of early media support all over the world including national radio playlisting in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the USA. With Alice Russell’s versatile, shimmering vocals and Quantic’s trademark warm production alongside big string sections, spine-tingling harmonies, unshakable hooks and an uplifting crescendo, it is no surprise. Once the lead track has lit the touch paper, the album abounds with melodies and momentum from there on in, brimming with big, classic-sounding yet fresh and original songs.
Quantic, aka Will Holland, moved to Cali, Colombia in 2007, and the sessions that became ‘Look Around The Corner’ took place over two visits that Russell made in the intervening four years. Pushing the concept of their previous collaborations, reflecting the locale and the players’ backgrounds, Quantic and Alice Russell infused the style with a Latin undertone; the blues and soul sound still takes centre stage though, rather like the soul records made in Miami and New York in the ‘70s, or the disco from the Bronx. Chicago’s Chess label was a key influence on the production aesthetic, and a mutual love of Minnie Riperton fed into some of the vocal melodies.
Holland and Russell reminisce on what was clearly a personally and creatively fulfilling experience for both artists:
Holland: “Once I’d left Brighton, I yearned to make more music with Alice – it was something that I missed being out in Colombia… Alice was among the first to come out and visit me and collaborate with the new musicians I had found. When you hear of artists taking trips to record in exotic locations you always imagine Caribbean scenery, romantic sunsets… but this trip was a little more urban – recording in the heart of the city, in the smog and hustle bustle of downtown Cali… We also performed an acoustic set in a friend’s bar called Saloon one night, and travelled a little by road. I remember us travelling down to nearby Pasto in my car and listening to Dorothy Ashby on repeat”.
Russell adds, “On the first few tracks we ever did together, way back in the past, we never even met – we just did it remotely, being busy with other projects. So it was a real luxury this time around to be able to get away from everything else, and go over to Cali to be there solely to spend time and make this music. We were rediscovering influences that we both love. It was also my first time recording with the Combo Bárbaro, which was great.”
Holland agrees, “It’s true. I think this was a far more intimate recording experience than anything we had previously done. In a way, being out in Colombia allowed to isolate ourselves a little and concentrate on the real essence of what we wanted to accomplish.”
Joining Quantic and Alice Russell on this project are Mike Simmonds (Alice Russell’s regular strings guru who joined them in Colombia from London); as well as Alfredito Linares, bassist Fernando Silva and conga player Freddy Colorado, all from the Combo Bárbaro. Wilson Viveros, from coastal town Buenaventura, was an invited drummer; also on drums for some songs was Jazz drummer Larry Joseph from Cali. Alfredito is the instrumentalist star of the show, sprinkling his magical and charismatic brand of bluesy, boogaloo piano throughout the album.
Quantic and Alice Russell will be touring major venues in the USA, Europe and the UK in March-May, with a full band comprising members of the Combo Bárbaro and musicians from Alice’s own group. Exact dates tbc.
Look out for a series of official promo videos for this project, to be launched in the run-up to album release.
“I just love this. Awesome. That’s a great jam right there.” – Huey Morgan (BBC 6Music)
“brings together two of the UK’s best talents… brilliant” – Jamie Cullum (BBC R2)
“They’re back – two of my favourites from around the world” – Gilles Peterson (BBC R1)
“Two of my favourite modern artists collide and collude in a dreamy-sounding, rhythmically spacious reunion. Only complaint is there isn’t more.” – Harry Shearer (NPR, USA)
“Quantic is dope, Alice Russell is dope… their collaboration is “double dope“” – dan le sac
“I love this track! So, so lovely, like a modernist Charles Stepney.” – Emma Warren (RBMA/NME Radio)
“Pure sweet soul blues and gospel meet Latin swing!” – KCRW Music Blog, LA
“A truly epic song” – Craig Charles (BBC 6Music)