Sunday, 16 December 2012

#ESPspotlight Review: Soneni & The Soul's 'Million Miles Away' EP

Right. Well now I want to go out on the town.

I've just had my first listen of 'Million Miles Away' - the d├ębut EP from Afrosoul band, Soneni & The Soul and it's left me in the mood for some Sunday night wine bar action. VERY bad influences, they are...

If you caught their #FindOutFriday interview back in March, then you'll know that these four are one of my favourite UK sounds, thus making the EP's release a highpoint of my year. Imagine my grumpy annoyance then, at being kept away from their release party Thursday before last, by the most annoyingly spiteful, entertainment-foiling, inconsiderate of my personal joy and life-living bout of Influenza in recorded history. In case the meaning of my words are more blocked than my nose, what I'm basically saying is, I was slightly irked.

Alas, I tried to mentally relive the night on my lonesome just now. As a result, I now fully place blame upon the group, for no longer wanting to sit here and work the rest of the evening away as my to-do list requires, oh no. The bass from the first bar of opening track, 'We Can Go', now has me tempted to hitchhike to quiet Country lanes where I can really put some poor, innocent driver's subwoofers to good use, before heading back to that aforementioned bar, to Azonto the night away until my little heart's content. Now I'm not going to pretend that I actually know how to do the Azonto; but if the band can play the track in a field, then who's to stop me learning in one? The pastime is officially required.

EP title track 'Million Miles Away', is a strong contender for the mixtape's best. A glimpse into the all too familiar struggle of being stuck in a job that grinds you down mentally and crushes your inner spirit - you don't even need to be the creative type to relate to this one; you just need to repel the suffocating conformity imposed by 'The Laws of The Suit'. With smooth vocals from Soneni that could be likened to singer Estelle in places (sans the ego, with the added bonus of a likeable personality); the entire track does what it says on the tin - adds mileage to your cognitive state. Just be glad it's not literal distance, no-one can afford this journey at today's petrol prices...

Now I'd like to think that 'God Bless The Creators' is a tribute that even I can take part in. The first 'Spoken Word' track in the collection, the rhyming Prayer unites all those with passion and means for turning their ideas into reality. Also a motivational speech of sorts; it's an encouraging reminder that whilst what we do may be a labour of love, that doesn't automatically make the ability come easily or naturally - and that difficulty frustrates, but connects us all.

Talking of Unity, I don't think it's honestly possible for me to ever get sick of 'Love My London'. The Spiritual uplift in honour of our tragic, post-riot, city was performed live for the first time at the 6th December release party. Featuring fellow Spoken Word artists Leroy Rose, Ms KG, Tshaka Campbell, Comfort and Alim Kamara; this is (not so) secretly the performance I was most looking forward to and equally, most gutted about missing.

Continuing the Spoken Word format, 'A Place Called eKhaya' makes me want to sit by a campfire at night, examining my true Spiritual path with a Warrior Chief...And I don't even do wildlife. Soneni talks the confusing juxtaposition that, looking back on her history begs the question: "Where's Home?" BEWARE that drum beneath her while you listen - it doesn't half lead your mind on 4 minutes and 7 seconds worth of one of those dream walks that you see people take in films to boost their mental clarity and all that...

'Siyahamba' feels like a coming of age epiphany set to a Soulful House beat. It takes the 'Back To My Roots' message of 'A Place Called eKhaya' and puts it into practice, by blending Soneni's British birthplace with her Zimbabwean heritage, before pouring the combination over one seriously infectious backing track; courtesy of Elmo's Bass, Andrew's Guitar and Boukie's delirium-inspiring Drums.

Going for a big finish, it's no wonder that 'The Zone' has garnered Soneni & The Soul so much additional interest since it's preview release some weeks back. Just when I'd started to calm down, I was unceremoniously transported to another place and my dancing shoes came along for the ride. I do love a truthful title. An accurate description of the entire project, the closing track is packed with more electric energy than a defibrillator massage to your 'sensitive' bits...

For a dance-filled trip beyond the outskirts of your imagination, 'Million Miles Away' by Soneni & The Soul is just the ticket.

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ES ;o)