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Old 21st October 2003   #1
V Knid esq
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Amp Fiddler – Love & War EP (Genuine / PIAS)

OK this one’s been out a while, but a) it’s still available, b) it’s mental and c) Amp Fiddler’s album which is due soon sounds like it’s shaping up to be a real big one, so I thought it only fair to give advance warning. This Detroit dude has been around the block and no mistake – he is, I think, in his 40s and has worked as a session musician with everyone from Was (Not Was) to Prince (when he was Prince) to Carl Craig (in the Detroit Experiment). This has got plenty of evidence of mature musical expertise, but in some ways I was amazed (in an ageist way) to find out how old he is, because it’s also got a freshness and innovation that you’d expect to come from some total iconoclastic hungry young loon.

The long title track is very reminiscent of Marvin Gaye circa ‘What’s Going On’, with chaotic (almost Arkestra-ish) voices and muted trumpets ebbing and flowing in the background, and conscious lyrics sung in a voice not a million miles away from Jamie Lidell’s smoother bits on ‘Raw Digits’, lovely scatting too… Key line is ‘you got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything’. The rhythm, though is Latino (Bossanova?), and there are ultra-deep-house style synth pads swelling through the mix like Moodymann’s finest work, and some lovely 808 kick sub bass underneath it all. The groove barely changes for the whole 7 minutes, but it’s so blissful and the luscious voice and rich piano tinkling so sweet that it doesn’t matter one bit. The ‘Version’ which follows brings out the deep house elements, dropping a 4/4 kick and dubbing the rest except for the vocals into the periphery.

‘Freakin’’ on the flip comes even closer to Super_Collider, with a jerky, Princey, slow p-funk beat, 80s synth abuse, processed guitar and some proper gloopy resonant live moog lines. It’s a bit Outkast, a bit D’Angelo, a bit like what you think the Neptunes could do if they could stick to the pure funk, but it’s totally a new thing and I reckon is destined to stimulate some… well… Freakin’ wherever it’s played. Again, there’s not a lot of song structure to speak of (in fact there’s fuck all), but the groove, the singing and the playing are so fine you don’t want it to end. Another slow jam follows in the form of ‘This Is How’ – possibly the most conventional track here, and very close to D’Angelo with its falsetto bits and Stevie Wonder jazzed harmonies in the chorus. Still, the production again sets it above just about any other modern soul record you could care to mention, with total space around the beats, bass and vocal, but total attention paid to every subliminal movement of instruments in the background. Finally there’s a 2 minute snippet of classic Detroit downbeat house - in a Moodymann / Theo Parrish / Kenny Dixon Jr style - called ‘Eye To Eye’, again with lush, moody, ebbing and flowing vocal lines woven perfectly with the track.

I really can’t find fault with this EP, and I’ve had it on rotation for some months now. This guy sings as well as anyone I can think of around at the moment, his production mixes everything great about modern hip hop, Detroit house and other funk-based styles in a totally fresh way, and his musicianship is absolutely grade A tip-top shit-hot without ever dropping into wank or unnecessary noodling. A full-blown classic and worth every one of these five space invaders:

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Amp Fiddler


Last edited by V Knid esq : 23rd October 2003 at 14:28.
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