Jamie Lidell + The Crystal Ark | Tracks
A soul man’s steely plea. DFA’s next BFD.
Published: November 29, 2012
“What a Shame”
Jamie Lidell has made a career out of careening between electronic music and authentic soul to the point that this split personality now defines the U.K. native and Nashville transplant. He’s eager to express himself no matter what, be it via laptop-rattling glitch or more organic means. “What a Shame” splits the difference, setting Lidell’s impassioned moan atop a mechanical foundation. Menacing low-end straddles two chords as automated gears grind away. As a backing track it’s stiff but functional, a slate-gray canvas waiting to be scuffed up. The color comes from Lidell’s handsome voice, just coarse enough, and exquisitely layered into gospel-like exhortations, flushing out whatever menacing spirits may have crept in. He’s perfected a heart-wrenching moan, and at one point sounds as if he’s actually sobbing. It’s a device, one that he’s able to activate at will, but we’ll give credit where it’s due: Few artists can flit between modes while channeling emotion that raw.
The Crystal Ark
It’s unlikely New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ever heard of the Crystal Ark, but he’d be wise to enlist its help in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. At ten members strong, the group’s manpower is modest, but the dance-till-you-drop vibe of the collective could lift the spirit of not just New York but the entire tristate area. The NYC outfit, part of James Murphy’s DFA family, was launched by former LCD Soundsystem member Gavin Russom, who expands on LCD’s inclusive spirit. There’s a disco element to Ark’s endless grooves, and while the band could only loosely be lumped in with that genre, the Afro-Latin percussion percolating throughout “Morir Soñando” doesn’t work against the comparison. Nor does Viva Ruiz’s cool delivery, or her desire to “dream you all night long.” The tune takes its name from a Dominican soft drink that resembles a melted orange creamsicle, and the entrancing spell Ark casts bears traces of that same acidic and sweet contrast.