SugaRush Beat Company is aptly christened. Drawn in animated silhouette on the CD label, the three members of this inter-continental soul outfit churn out sweet, delicious beats for the feet.
Led by Melbourne-based producer Jarrad “Jaz” Rogers, SugaRush Beat Company unites two established vocalists and songwriters, Ida Corr and Rahsaan Patterson. Their vocal styles give Rogers a contrasting pair of palettes to work with on the album’s 13 tracks. With lead vocals divided almost evenly, the combination of talent works. Already hailed in the UK for its cross-genre appeal, SugaRush Beat Company is the antidote to the landscape of urban and industrial ennui depicted by rain-soaked streets and buildings in the album’s artwork.
The premise of the album is illustrated by a two-page spread in the booklet. A crowd stands enraptured before a towering, messianic set of speakers. Hands wave in the air as the beats thunder forth from the speakers. Written by Rogers and Patterson, “Sugarush” is the album’s unofficial anthem. A perfect complement to the tableaux, it’s also an anthem for anyone who’s been driven delirious by melody and rhythm. “I feel a two-step comin’ on”, Patterson exclaims, and it’s impossible not to absorb his excitement, or the excitement of the crowd in the illustration, for that matter.
Based somewhere in the stratosphere above, “Love Breed” is a sugary slice of dance-pop heaven. Over Rogers’ wind-swept arrangement, Corr vacillates between ache and determination. “I try to fly, still I’m falling”, she sings angelically. Her search for redemption, and her pain, is the listener’s reverie. “Love Breed” is a song meant for opened-sun roof driving or spinning enraptured underneath a strobe light.
By contrast, “They Said I Said” (Corr’s other standout performance on the album) is a hot three minutes of handclaps and go-go rhythms. With just a slight trace of venom, Corr rasps, “It’s not that I hate you / But I just can’t seem to love you”. You can almost see the spikes jutting off the ends of each letter, but the groove is so damn good you don’t even notice the danger.
Even when the subject matter turns political, Rogers keeps the beats fervent. “Gunshots ‘N Candyfloss” salutes the media’s hold on our consciousness, where we sit, captivated by images of violence and disposable entertainment. “Extra, extra”, Patterson calls, sending the synapses of our collective ADD-afflicted attention spans into haywire. The jittery production mirrors the cognitive clutter of our minds.
The highlight of SugaRush Beat Company is Patterson’s “L-O-V-E”. There is nothing subtle about the track, nor should there be considering the topic at hand. Rogers’s rim-shots and sneaky bass line give way to cymbal crashes and majestic horns. Grandeur surrounds Patterson’s vocals. Love usurps his power to resist and he’s overcome with elation, even if he’s driven crazy by Cupid’s arrow. The overpowering force of love envelops him. He spells out each letter of the word, yet he’s at a loss for words: “‘L’ is love it’s love / ‘O’ yes ‘o’ is love”, he sings. The emotion in his voice tells us all we need to know about being consumed so completely by love—if there’s a cure for it, he don’t need it!
Further down the track list is what could be considered the album’s somber moment. “Jesus Come Here” is a track that both haunts and hypnotizes. A distorted voice mutters “Hello?” through the fog of Rogers’s ambient arrangement. It’s a chilling sound. The mood generated by his production captures the essence of walking in darkness—literally and spiritually—looking for light. The presence of Jesus seems to be felt, as indicated by the plangent sound of the gospel choir (“See the glory / Ahhh”), but then fades away. The song ends, somewhat unresolved. “Jesus Come Here” is, of course, open to interpretation, but for the character in this song, at least, Jesus is a powerful but fleeting force.
It’s something of a missed opportunity that Corr and Patterson do not share any lead vocals, though the two have sung together in concert to promote the album. With the identity of SugarRush Beat Company now established, hopefully more duet opportunities will shape the next effort (or perhaps a Corr/Patterson duet could be included for the album’s still-unannounced US release).
However, that is only a minor misstep on an album that is offers a much-needed salve of “cotton candy records” (to borrow a phrase from “Sugarush”) in such dispirited times. This is one sugar rush that doesn’t dip.