No one expected Jamie Lidell’s 2005 album Multiply —with a who’s who of Berlin’s electronic muzos backing him—to be such a dynamic and convincingly personal assimilation of blue-eyed soul. Even Lidell’s IDM-focused label Warp was out of its league—woefully underpromoting what was one of that year’s finest.
Lidell, who’s English but lives in Berlin, went through a number of caterpillar-like transformations— studying physics and philosophy, then doing techno-funk with Chilean producer Cristian Vogel as Super_Collider—before finding his calling: channeling classic crooning of giants like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. And in recent years, his improvised sampling/looping solo act has been one of the most exhilarating gigs around—though, admittedly, his Chicago shows have been uncharacteristically flat.
Lidell’s soul-volution feels inevitable, and therefore Jim has few surprises—it’s a conventional, if luxuriously appointed, retro Stax/Motown hybrid record in every sense. The basics (keys/bass/drums) are absolutely on point, anchoring Lidell’s rich, protean intonations. When “Little Bit of Feel Good” and “Green Light” are thickened, it’s with predigital-age studio flourishes—swelling horns, brassy backing vox, Moog leads and phased-out crash cymbals. He treads close to Jamiroquai territory on boogie number “Figured Me Out”—but reaches for a rare kind of adult sincerity on “All I Wanna Do” and “Rope of Sand.” He shimmies through house-shaking rave-ups “Hurricane” and “Wait for Me.”
Lidell makes polymorphous soul—expect endless quirkier remixes in the coming months—but on Jim, he opts for timeless presentation and clear messages. Focused, often easygoing, but clearly inspired—Jim is a (new) old friend you’ll never give the silent treatment.
Lidell plays Abbey Pub June 4.