2020 / 2021 / Cal Gibson / Secret Soul Society

One of the personal plus-points of a pandemic-plagued 2020 was meeting sometime journalist / seemingly full-time music producer, Cal Gibson. Cal got in touch to say how much he liked the blog – which is always super, super nice – and on the strength of his credentials – and the power of the prose in his email exchange – I asked him if he fancied contributing some “content”. Cal then sent over a wicked piece on Prince Jazzbo – which he subsequently recalled for a re-edit. Hopefully you`ll all get to see it soon. 

Once a writer for Muzik, Jockey Slut, IDJ, and The Face, Cal also musically nudged open the doors of acclaim and success as a member of deep house  / modern boogie quartet, Neon Heights. That was back in the late `90s early 2000s. These last 12 months have seen Cal launch a new moniker – The Secret Soul Society – and a new imprint – Scruffy Soul Recordings. During the lockdowns he seems to have been prodigiously prolific – sending over at least one new remix / rework each week, some of which have seen a wider circulation care of labels such as Paper Recordings off-shoot, Paper Wave. With the help of Greg Foat, Cal is also the man responsible for making me a Billie Eilish fan. 

Words and selections by Cal Gibson. 

B Floating Downtown edit

Could you give me a few pieces of music, released or reissued this year, that have helped you make it through 2020?

Maxado & Alex Figueira – Quando Sera (Flute Version) (Music with Soul)

A Jason Boardman tip: all about the flute-led dub on the flip. A wandering bass, chikka-chikka reggae guitar riff and then the flute licks laid gently on top: a mini-masterpiece of Caribbean boogie business.

Guilherme Held – Laco De Fita feat. Criolo (Bandcamp Self-release)

This year Bandcamp has been the infinite musical monkey-cage of self-expression, a rabbit hole so vast and deep it’s frightening. This is a lovely self-released album from Sao Paulo that seems to have gone under most radars but is a real doozy: a neat updating on Caetano and Jorge and all the old beleza crew. Lovely.

Pierre Kwenders & Clement Bazin – Sentiment

An Afro-Montreal slice of shiny, sparkly pop that could easily stretch out for twice its three minutes (its begging for an edit people…) – the soundtrack to this year’s imaginary summer, a yearning slice of feel-good dancefloor boogalooga that’s been on repeat round our way.

Alina Bzhezhinska, Tony Kofi, Joel Prime – Alabama

Nottingham’s finest jazzual maestro Tony Kofi linking up with harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and percussionist Joel Prime for a run through Trane’s howl of anguish. Every home should have this. I’ll quote from the  musicians themselves:

“John Coltrane composed Alabama as a reflection on Dr Martin Luther King’s eulogy for four little African-American girls murdered by the KKK in Birmingham Alabama on September 15th,1963. Our interpretation of this piece is dedicated to support the Black Lives Matters movements across the globe and your generous contributions will be donated to support this incredibly important organisation.”

Toni Kofi Alabama

Bonjani Givethanks – Feelgood Friday

A nifty slice of popping Afrofunk from Pretoria-based Bonjani Givethanks that nods its head towards samba grooves as it slinks its way to the dancefloor. Not so much under the radar as never been anywhere near the radar, lets all, umm, give thanks to Bonjani…

Steve Leggett & Mark Hand (feat Greg Blackman) – Aquarius

Uber-deep Rhodes-slathered house cut that rolls and rolls and rolls – a reworking of the 2015 original cut that has had plays from FK and Osunlade amongst others. Pure quality whether you’re in sight of a dance-floor or not. A DJ’s delight for sure.

Oumou Sangare – Kounkoun

One of the tracks from the reimagined Acoustic album – recorded in a couple of days in Paris. Stripped back, yearning, earthy blues business: the whole album is all killer, no filler. Heavy rotation for months on this one.

Jules Brennan – Oh Flamingo

2020 saw the birth of Scruffy Soul Recordings – an anything goes imprint that I started with Australia’s The Found Sound Orchestra. Our first signing was Kyoto-residing  English jazz tyro Jules Brennan and Oh Flamingo is a twinkly slice of mod-inflected chamber pop.

Dianne Mower – The Secret Sign

Re-issued twice, seemingly, by Numero and Mind Fluid, the 1980 original is billed as a jazz funk take on Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Enlightenment. Composer Kent Hewitt now pops up on Youtube teaching jazz piano, fact fans. Wiggy, trippy, and funkier than a night in with Jim Morrison this is my most played record of the year by far. Awesome.

Family of Swede – Living From Day To Day (80s version)

Taken from the brilliant Family album – unreleased cuts from the 70s and 80s from this scorching hot Oakland funk outfit. Superb Bay Area throwdowns that have had the Gilles P seal of approval: ideally suited to satisfy all your dance-floor requirements when they finally re-open.

Family of Swede - Living From Day To Day

All being well what plans do you have for 2021?

Coming up for The Secret Soul Society / Scruffy Soul Recordings…
Secret Soul Society E.P. in  the spring for Paper Wave Recordings
Secret Soul Society vinyl release on Magic Wand Edits – also in the spring
Secret Soul Society collaboration with Huw Costin aka Torn Sail
Scruffy Soul Recordings E.P. 004 out in February
Scruffy Soul Recordings E.P. 005 out in April

As far as hopes and wishes go….Having seen the back of Trump, is it too much to wish for the demise of the Tories as well? BLM to continue to right the wrongs, and climate change action to ramp up and up and up if we’re to turn this rotten system around in time…

You can check out The Secret Soul Society catalogue here and here. Scruffy Soul Recordings are over on Beatport. 

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