Shane Johnson takes a look (and listen) at two recent electronic full-lengths.
Wajatta is the unlikely pairing of comedian, beat-boxer and all round renaissance man, Reggie Watts, and techno stalwart John Tejada. Following a solid debut in 2018, the LA duo fully hit their stride on this second album with a refreshing blast of slick house grooves and playful vocals.
Opening track ‘Renegades’ points the way with a warm percussive vibe and catchy scat chorus reminiscent of New Jersey garage greats Blaze. Watts’s controlled vocals range impressively across the 11 songs, from a tight, soulful baritone to a soaring falsetto that would do Ten City’s Byron Stingly proud. He floats into lighter pop territory on occasion but Tejada’s earthy production consistently provides heft and balance.
The uptempo pace drops on a couple of numbers, notably the lovely, layered ‘January’, but this is very much a dance floor album and it closes strongly with the effervescent, loose-limbed stomp of ‘All I Need Is You’.
With a background as a guitarist and DJ, Berlin-based Takeleave blends elements of both disciplines to fine effect on his accomplished second album.
The sound is warm and dense, the mood dream-like, and his intricate programming and playing contrast with loose arrangements that seem to emerge and transform organically.
The clean guitar lines of ‘Petichor’ gather around a solid kick drum for a couple of minutes, then collapse into a pleasing tangle of notes and abstract chords.
It’s very much a start-to-finish record that rewards repeated listens but there are groups of tracks that clearly belong together. The lurching hip hop beat and almost subliminal vocal hook of ‘Soulfood’ lead naturally into the spiralling layers of guitar on the album’s emotional highlight, ‘Lucid’.
Clocking in at less than thirty minutes, the album’s brevity becomes another strength, leaving the listener hungry for more.