Here’s the latest – and best – solo album from Paul White. It’s his fourth – but he’s also been (more often) a guy behind the scenes, co-creating beats across a range of styles, producing, arranging, hiding from the spotlight too. Now he’s announcing himself, face on the cover-styles, and he’s put his best foot shuffling forward through a series of slinky, soft-focus groove-pieces. One minute it’s hip-hop reimagined, the next it’s the type of late-night electronica-as-wind-down that Darkside do so well.
It’s Flying Lotus with rounded corners, the sharp angles blunted down in the way that, well, Dean Blunt sometimes works. Take the bass-and-guitar-driven glide of Sitting in Circles for instance, so calm and smooth and reassuring, only to be interrupted by a late-in-the-record return to the frenetic-party feel of Numbers of Change. And then the calming coda that is the closing title track. These peaks and valleys roll and flow to take us through an album that can’t ever be pinned down, but never alienates.
White is showing himself – in a very laidback but determined way – to be a master of (almost) all styles here. You can grasp at FourTet or Cinematic Orchestra for ideas when you hear the early album highlight, All We Know; its soft bubble rhythm an undulating guide. But then it’s to Where You Gonna Go? And this is where White takes us on a subverted Afrobeat excursion – that Darkside/Nicolas Jaar sound is there, before the swaggering mechanical stomp of Honey Cats interrupts.
No idea seems out of place when White is making up the runsheet – and no idea feels out of place when you hear it. But there are a handful of truly transcendent moments, such as Running On A Rainy Day’s water-coloured treatment of gospel against a measured cinematic sweep.
What’s important here is the use of vocals as only ever a backing sound, a casual enhancement – in the past Paul White has been the guy behind the sound; here the vocals are part of (but behind) his sound. It’s a producer-album as producer-statement.
And it’s the most majestic headphone soundtrack you could ask for right now.