Released: 24th Mar, 2014
Label: Tru Thoughts
24th March brings the “Beacons” EP, the debut release on Tru Thoughts from rising producer Werkha, who was snapped up by the label in late 2013 having been championed by Quantic and Gilles Peterson. In another gold seal of approval from on high, Werkha has just been confirmed as the support act for Bonobo on the leftfield luminary’s European Tour.
With five unshakable tracks that fizz with energy, mixing up the tempos and blending nuanced live instrumentation with grin-inducing and eminently danceable beats and melodies, “Beacons” is sure to see Werkha rising further up the ones-to-watch lists, after a big 2013 which saw his reputation spread swiftly.
Werkha is the project of Manchester based musician and producer Tom A. Leah. With his debut EP, “Cube & Puzzle” (Cool Kid Music) in late 2012, his refreshing style gained him over 300,000 video hits and widespread tastemaker support. In addition to BBC 6Music play and Worldwide blog coverage, Gilles Peterson also picked an upfront track, “Sidesteppin’ feat. Bryony Jarman-Pinto”, for a Brownswood Bubblers compilation. Festival sets including Latitude and Dimensions, and regular spots at the likes of Fabric, all added to Werkha’s profile; and a remix for Dutch Uncles’ single “Fester” (Memphis Industries) also helped to introduce his production style to the masses.
The “Beacons” EP opens with “Lapwing”, a deep, entrancing track that takes a sonic voyage through Werkha’s influences, from garage beats to uplifting, jazzy saxophone melodies and African rhythms; thematically it celebrates the “freedom to travel and experience”, and Leah’s sense of “feeling most at home when I’m on the road”. Look out for the “Lapwing” video premiere, soon. Following on, the atmospheric “Moving With The Nuisance” is a compelling invitation – nay, instruction - to party. Spurred by the depressing trend of people moving next to music venues and trying to shut them down, Leah was inspired by the name of a law on the issue, called ‘moving to a nuisance’; “People should move with the music - the “nuisance” - not against it. I wanted to make a statement, the party must go on!”
“Sidesteppin' feat. Bryony Jarman-Pinto” builds up around Jarman-Pinto’s luxuriant vocals. “I'm always taken aback by the detail of her voice, all those subtle inflections. It reminds me of the importance of striving for quality”, Leah enthuses. Hypnotic vocal hook underpinned by perfectly balanced textures in the laid-back keys, squelchy bass and sprightly percussion, this is a true jam session song, conceived in the moment and all the more entrancing for it.
Heading underground, “Tempo Tempo” roams the 140bpm stomping ground of dubstep, conjuring a layered, synth-heavy sound rich in melodic and compositional surprises, and proving a point that Leah puts into winningly dry words: “Since the bastardisation of the term dubstep, I have been keen to demonstrate that it doesn't all have to sound like robots being sick”. It leads straight in to “Wishful Friction”, funnelling the wonkier end of Leah’s music taste into a dancefloor context. Using rumbling cello samples recorded in a forest, and applying a verse-chorus-verse structure to an instrumental dance track, he constructs a playful and refreshing yet strikingly direct slice of club goodness.
Tom A. Leah first began feeding his musical passions with classical, folk and jazz as a youngster. A well-travelled childhood exposed him to a vibrant musical landscape, which he harnesses as Werkha in an infectious fusion of Afrobeat, bass, house, jazz, funk and soul - bound together and brought bang up to date through constantly evolving electronic production. Still only 22 years old, Leah’s philosophical outlook, paired with a thirst for hard work and experimentation, denotes a huge talent on the rise: “The build up to this EP is getting me really excited - it raises the bar for me and the expectation of me, and I'm keen to respond to that. I’m enjoying developing my style... I want to make forward thinking music that means something, and stands for something - I want to put soul back into it.”