After first hearing this new LP from Ron Trent`s project, WARM, when I spoke to Ron`s UK PR company, I said, “Wow, some people are going to be really surprised” – to which they replied, “Really, you think so? If you’ve been listening carefully I believe you’ll have seen this coming.” The off-kilter raw rhythmic genius of Ron`s Chicago jack landmark, Altered States, was a long, long, time ago, and he’s been moving in a more melodic, more musical direction ever since.
The press release, quite rightly, makes much of the star-studded collaborations on the album – guest slots from terrifically talented folks such as Gigi Masin, Khruangbin, Lars Bartkuhn, and Azymuth, the presence of Jean-Luc Ponty`s virtuoso violin – but it barely mentions the fact that Ron actually plays pretty much everything – drums, percussion, keys, and guitar – the latest addition to his personal aural arsenal. I guess the clues were there in Ron`s production work with A Band Called Flash, and his recent run of lush, latin, samba-influenced, remixes. There was even a WARM 12 sneaked out back in 2019. But I have to say that What Do The Stars Say To You still blew my mind.
Everything on the album is fusion-flavoured. Drawing heavily on the smooth, sophisticated, `80s jazz-funk, of artists such as Ryo Kawasaki, and the aforementioned Azymuth. Having since spoken to Ron, I know now that this was his first, vinyl, love. Concerned with creating sonic landscapes that people can escape in, here Ron seems to be day-dreaming of Okinawa`s beaches, and Rio`s carnivals. Paradises, cooling summer breezes. The over-riding vibe I’m getting – up in the Japanese mountains – is beach-side, pool-side, blissed-out, loved-up, “Balearic”. Mirages, oases, feel-good fogs of heavenly harmonies and Brazilian rhyme. Magical mid and downtempo sunset boogie. Señor Trent painting these pictures from a palette of stratospheric, spaced-out, solar-flare synths, and clipped, jazzy, rhythm guitar – Santana-esque echoes in the electric lead. Swirling, slightly psychedelic atmospherics and ambient techno tones. Moments that pack some proper piano power. All riding slowly percolating drum patterns – with no sign of house`s rigid four-to-the-floor.
My pick of the bunch is Flowers – a triumph of trippy electronic soul. A beautiful, beatless, bubblebath of a ballad that recalls Prince`s Art Of Noise-influenced Madhouse albums, and Seal`s Cafe del Mar classic, Violet. It`s perhaps worth pointing out that Trevor Horn is another of Ron`s production heroes, and it certainly shows.
Ron Trent Presents WARM`s What Do The Stars Say To You will be released on June 17th. You can pre-order a copy from Night Time Stories.