As NuNorthern Soul eases into its second decade, the label welcomes back a familiar face: Benjamin J Smith, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and pro-ducer whose emotive, colourful and atmospheric compositions are the very definition of ‘Balearic’.
Famously, it was Smith’s The Movedrill Projects album that kicked off the NuNorthern Soul story way back in 2012, and he’s periodically returned to the imprint on numerous occasions since. It’s fitting, then, that Smith is stepping up once more, with NuNorthern Soul found-er Phil Cooper selecting to showcase two overlooked gems from his bulging back catalogue.
Both tracks are taken from Smith’s digital-only album Mojave (Vintage Californian Dreams), a set of thor-oughly gorgeous, West Coast-inspired library music compositions smothered in sumptuous strings and in-formed by the artist’s love of jazz-funk, languid jazz-rock and the kind of luscious, sunset-ready soundscapes that defy neat categorization.
Opening proceedings, and sitting on side A of the vinyl release, is the breath-taking ‘Marina Del Rey’, where layered, reverb-laden harmonic vocalisations, twin-kling electric piano improvisations, lazy guitar licks, spacey synth flourishes and sultry strings slowly rise above a toasty bassline and gentle, Latin-tinged beats. Smith cannily adds layers of sound throughout while moving the musical story forwards, leading to a mem-orable, awe-inspiring conclusion.
In contrast, ‘Big Sur’ sees Smith take an imaginary road trip through the driest, dustiest parts of the Cali-fornian countryside. Psychedelic rock style organ mo-tifs, sustained Hammond B-3 chords and glistening West Coast rock guitar solos dance atop a rubbery bassline and intoxicated, loose-limbed drums, with Smith’s eyes-closed vocalisations – drenched in reverb and delay – adding extra layers of aural loveliness. Like ‘Marina Del Rey’, ‘Big Sur’ is a vivid, widescreen con-coction tailor-made for soundtracking films that have yet to be made.
LEO MAS, ITALY – Marina Del Rey is beautiful
BILL BREWSTER, LONDON, UK – Marina Del Rey is a tune!
PETE HERBERT, LONDON, UK – Both are superb.
NICK WARREN, BRISTOL, UK – Superb, love both of the tracks. Road trip music at its best.
KARLOS SENSE, IBIZA GLOBAL RADIO, SPAIN – Amazing music as always.
RUMI, KASHEME LOUNGE, ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Absolutely stunning release!
HARRI, SUB CLUB, GLASGOW, UK – Lovely.
JAYE WARD, LONDON, UK – Big fan of B.J. Smith outputs, these are super restrained yet totally epic… beautiful stuff indeed.
MARCO, HELL YEAH RECORDINGS, ITALY – Some magic here! Marina Del Rey, WOW, will play for sure.
S / A / M, IBIZA, SPAIN – Two beautifully sun drenched tracks and a healthy dose of blissful balearic goodness.
STEVE SHAKEWELL, AIR A DANSER, NYC, USA – Coastal vibes, pleasant sounds to take you away.More Like Marina Del Rey & Big Sur - BJ Smith