Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.
“I just like making music in my shed” – Reuben Vaun Smith.
Some artists seem to come fully-formed, ready-rolled, all kitted out and up for the fight: Reuben Vaun Smith emphatically being one such phenomenon. His debut long player Warm Nights dropped on Soundway in the summer of 2020. Seven tracks culled from the musically-untrained youngster – jamming in his shed with a MIDI keyboard and a laptop. Unpolished but all the better for it. Possessing a charm and a joie de vivre that attracted plenty of attention from Balearic heads and tastemakers alike. One year on and Sounds From The Workshop takes the Warm Nights template and expands upon it, organically, without losing the sure-footed touch of the original’s vibe. Sun, sea and sand remain key indices for the Vaun Smith experience: this is loose-limbed business for the young at heart. Melodies fizz, guitars shimmy, smiles widen. There’s a party down the beach and everyone’s invited y’all. Opener Sun Sun lays down the modus operandi: wicky-wacky guitar frames a doozy of a synth riff which pings across the synapses like a gaggle of sunbeams out for a jolly. Mid-paced and mellow, it’s a great entry point.
Vaun Smith has mentioned in interviews the likes of the mighty Tinariwen as an influence and you can certainly hear them in the smoothed-out six string groove of Hold Out. This is Tinariwen via Alfredo – the desert blues tweaked into snaky dancefloor forms, slinkier than a mosquito’s tweeter.
To Live By The Sea introduces a wistful element to the proceedings. Synth strings heralding a paean to the lure of the coast. Vaun Smith’s bounce and roll softened into dreams of tomorrow and flickered memories of the past.
The title cut stretches somewhat, unfurling into almost eight minutes of Afro-inflected bump and hustle. The synthetic flutes layer themselves over a chunky dance-floor friendly bass and you’re off. Using the neat trick of matching the yearning lyrical phrases with the boogie-fied bottom end: the laughter halfway through suggesting that the music-makers themselves are enjoying the ride just as much.
Everybody Wants To Move channels prime time Steely Dan, and hell why not. Becker and Fagen are fine touchstones for sure. Vaun Smith cops a chunk of their smoothness, the cut chiselled to perfection, just enough and no more. High quality beat-broking no doubt.
With fifteen tracks to choose from its clear that creative joy is pouring out of Vaun Smith and friends at the moment – further evidenced by the title of Euphoria – another cracking tune to ease the wary back to the disco / dance. Fifteen tracks and not a dud in sight. This is stirring, accomplished global groove-making of undoubted quality – Reuben Vaun Smith got it going on.
Reuben Vaun Smith`s Sounds From The Workshop is released on Soundway, on September 24th.