Super review by Cal Gibson of The Secret Soul Society.
How best to sum up over three decades of real Northern soul music? Made in Hull (from girders), played across the world, bathed in warmth and empathy and fired-up synapses – Fila Brazillia were always creating their own musical cocoon, miles and miles of smiles away from whatever was hip down London town way… Well, that’s the perceived view – the perpetual outsiders knocking up beats and pieces in the outback, acid house meets lounge lizardry meets blunted boom-bap meets whatever the hell they wanted to meet: minds freed by the times, by the substances, by the acknowledgement that music is music is music and the cultural gatekeepers can simply do one.
Fila Brazillia were / are, of course, so much more than the reductive stance outlined above. They were possessed of plenty of skills and confident in their own prowess: a power duo for the jilted generation, Crosby and Nash retooled for a night out at Bounce with the DiY crew, two heads operating as one with kosmiche overtones: listen to A Zed and Two L‘s now and it still sounds wonderful – all open spaces and twinkling synths, the symphony of the savannah melded into something haunting and reverberative. Slow fast, slow fast, slow – beats clocked up and beats wound down, the vocal sample pitch perfect, a slice of deep soul perfection.
There’s no space for my personal favourite, Pots and Pans (Jorge Ben he said “no way Jose”, possibly…), but no matter as there’s always another gem around the corner. Harmonicas Are Shite was a chillout staple of course, dustier than an evening with Dusty Hill (RIP), the soul of Little Walter caught in a web of Rhodes and one night affairs. Horizontal, smoke-filled, hazy like Sunday morning – all the more stunning for the simplicity of its construction. Not much in it, but everything counts double if not triple. Ace.
Madame Le Fevre is tweaked psycho-soul: akin to one of Tim Love Lee’s slutty symphonies, or the Brand New Heavies on quaaludes. A score for lost weekends morphing into lost lifetimes, the party stretching out into something darker, the mind raising a red flag as it observes its own disintegration. Funky as hell but with a fistfull of fury: a mini-epic.
A new cut, Toro De Fuego, sashays out with yet more warmth and wonder. If you liked John Beltran’s recent stormer Em Trancoso, then you’re not far off the mark – deep-lying dancefloor business for the crews who know the score. Years and years of disco-knowledge transmuted into a bass riff and lilting piano chords. Again, it takes so much skill to make it seem this easy.
Before you know it eleven tracks and thirty two years have flown by, to the tune of two lives tethered together in musical creation. Two soundboys growing up, growing older, getting wiser (maybe), but never losing the desire to move the mind, body and soul, something that always signifies great dance music. It’s a craft that Fila Brazillia perfected time and time again: their sonic aesthetic is all their own, and shall remain that way forevermore. All hail the Hull puritans: there’s magic in these grooves.
Fila Brazillia`s Retrospective Redux 90 – 22 will be released by Re:Warm on June 2nd. You can pre-order a copy here. You can find more from the band’s back catalogue here.