Turntable Soul is the debut full-length from England’s Belleruche. This trio from across the pond have created a record that blends choice aesthetics from past and present, and the result is a fantastic cool-out experience that deserves repeated listening. Belleruche are signed to Tru Thoughts Records, which places them alongside nu-jazz trendsetters like Quantic and Nostalgia 77. Their style is more focused than the schizophrenic Quantic, and not as heavy as Nostalgia 77, though their blend of soul and hip hop aesthetics is a successful recipe.
Kathrin deBoer sings throughout the record, and her vocal stylings match wonderfully with the break infected soundscapes created by fellow bandmates Ricky Fabulous and DJ Modest. They blend live instrumentation with sampled breaks and loops, like on “Bump”, which features a live guitar riff and a sequenced drum break. The high hat is on this track sounds like it was stuffed in a trashcan and kicked down a steep hill before being sequenced.
“Reflection” might be the strongest cut on the record, with a minimal bass and guitar riff playing the backbone while vinyl crackles and pops cement the vintage sound. I wonder if they intentionally dug through stacks of old funk records looking for an LP with the oft-dreaded “Slight Surface Noise” sticker. On the hook, Ms. deBoer proclaims “It’s so easy, so simple, so beautiful”. Preach sister, preach.
The tempo varies from track to track on Turntable Soul, but the slow burners like “Balance” let the band really settle into their individual rolls within the trio. “Balance” features a popping riff from Ricky Fabulous that accompanies deBoer’s impeccable vocals about the polarized nature of the human experience. All the while, DJ Modest keeps the tempo with a simple kick/snare combo, adding fills of a gentle horn scratch between verses.
Have some comfy sneakers nearby before listening to the funk banger “The Itch”. You may feel compelled to start jumping around your house when the screaming organ stabs enter your ear canal.
American artists who attempt this style of soul singing over beats usually end up sounding like the laughable 4/4 muzak that comes pre-programmed in a Casio keyboard. Belleruche thankfully steer clear from any of those clichés, and the UK obsession with soul and jazz is a present and welcome influence on this record. Oh, and deBoer doesn’t rap, even when it would be easy to try a little four bar rhyme on some of these instrumentals. +10 points for her sense of judgment.
This is a stellar debut from one of the UK’s rising stars, and the incestuous tendencies of the Tru Thoughts label carries great promise for a future of remix and collaboration work from Belleruche.