Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.
With NuNorthern Soul seemingly relocated to Nottingham (Brown Fang, JIM, Huw Costin, Nail, and One Half Of Bent all being Notts or ex-Notts-based) how lovely it is to hear again from old friends and spars. For those of us who found ourselves knocking around that fair city many moons ago, the music-makers and party-quakers of our (mis)-spent youth are often still out there, peeping above the parapets and offering musical gifts up to the world. It’s a bug, you see, the bug of creation: the art of making something from nothing – the greatest gift humanity possesses.
And so to Millsy aka One Half Of Bent. If you were listening back then you’ll know the modus operandi: warmth and melody and humour and soul collide in a quirky leftfield manner that somehow retains the essence of great pop music. Older now, maybe even wiser now, but lacking none of the oomph that first set Nottingham’s very own glimmer twins on the rocky road to success.
Take 1973, 1975: a Proustian rush of innocence lost, wrapped up in soft bundles of funk – a direct mainline back to endless sunday afternoons and the collapsing nature of time that characterises childhood. There’s a sense of wonder conveyed perfectly: tunneling backwards, tinged with regret and happiness entwined: this is a life caught in four minutes (is that Woman In Chains sampled in there? could well be….). Collage meets the cool kids. Perfect.
Big Bam Boom is Daft Punk relocated to Strelley: quirky East Midlands boogie business smothered in pop feels – dancefloor joy for the freedom riders. These are all cuts that got sneaked out a while ago and slipped under the radar: kudos to Phil at NuNorthern for recognising unsung bombs and bangers.
Millsy himself wrote that he wanted to capture hope and melancholy together, which sums the vibe up perfectly on a track such as Rut: brilliantly excavated sample sources entwined with warm pads and twinkling melodies: vocoder slapped on top to complete the package. Synth-pop par excellence.
Lament ups the emotion still further: bassline popping, French vocal sample oozing Gallic soul, classic Bent feels whisked up seemingly effortlessly (except that he notes it took him twenty versions to achieve that effortlessness…of course!). In total then it’s a triumph: these perfectly-formed wide-ranging cuts cropping up again to garner the acclaim they should have received first time round. A joyful listen all-round.
One Half Of Bent’s Napoleon is out now on NuNorthern Soul.