Styles Upon Styles 2: Pacific Soul Warriors

Sugarlicks Recordings [2002]

Following on from Sugarlicks first compilation ‘Urban Soul Pollution’, comes ‘Pacific Soul Warriors’ — without quite the high-profile line-up that the first compilation had. This time the album focuses more on the more soulful end of the spectrum, with downtrodden tales of heartache permeating throughout the album, with vocals verging on gospel at time.

Nat Rose opens up with ‘Mana Wahine’ — an excellent acoustic number, assisted by the percussionary skills of Khuja Lounge regular Levani Vosasi providing firm congo backing. Sung in Maori, Nat shows the way with a smooth lead vocal and careful backing – complemented by some fine lead guitar work. Brother J’S ‘Roby Rose’ starts sharply, J’s vocals cutting in over horn backing reminiscent of (french band) Air’s ‘You Make It Easy’ and joined by a mellow melodica complement mid-song – very tasty.

Tony Battle provides the albums first hip-hop track, with Zimbabwean rapper Nemo dropping slick vocals over a mellow, backing, layered up with synth and spanish-guitar. This hip-hop motif is continued with D Kamali’s ‘decide’, featuring vocal coloring from Lole (who also featured on the first album). Fresh pacific-styled hip-hop, finding a voice in a market dominated by an unnecessary American influence.

Thisinformation is something of a new super-group on the New Zealand soul scene – featuring the unmistakable keys of jazz legend Mark De Clive Lowe, and formed around defunct Christchurch funk outfit Solaa the track grooves with immense ease. Johnny Lawrence’s bass punctuating a downright funk explosion – i look forward to hearing more material from this happy pairing. Things take a step back towards the mellow with One Million Dallors’ ‘Cashmeruffle’. Tastey trumpet riding a bed of bass-heavy mellow groove as richie’s vocals thicken up the middle. Whimsical backing vocals only add to the warm and coset feeling this song gives me.

Fat Freddy’s Drop vocalist supreme Dallas lays down his own track with the funky ‘The Garden’, which was recorded (here in a raw, mellow form) back before his debut album came out. The funk that’s since followed is quite evident on this simple, open and gorgeously soulful number. Ghost Tones track ‘God Willing’ has received a fair deal of radio-play here in New Zealand – and it’s obvious why. One of the better dance numbers on the album with some tricky mellow vibes and a synth riff that verges on ear candy – the track simply sizzles. The later half of the track is highlighted by a fluent, free-flowing sax lick that just completes an already great song.

More mellow keys open up Complicated Souls ‘Je Foreste’ before an unwanted synth bassline disturbs the play. All things are restored to their glorious mellow peak once those delightful keys cut back in – Kaidi Tatham making a real impression on the Rhodes.