Slakah the Beatchild and his Slakadeliqs

Among Toronto's most exciting musical voices, this DJ, producer, singer, songwriter, arranger, you-name-it has made one of this year's best records.

When it was released in the middle of a typically grey, frozen, sleety Canadian winter, it was hard to get a handle on just how good this record really is. But, now that the buds are beginning to bloom, the spring rains are turning things a bit more lush, and those heavy layers of down are finally being put away for a few months, Toronto-based psych-soul outfit the Slakadeliqs' The Other Side of Tomorrow feels like the perfect soundtrack for whatever you're up to.

I first encountered this band through its central figure, the extraordinarily talented Slakah the Beatchild (which is probably not his actual birth name, however well it suits him). Since about 2009 I have been following his career, checking out his (numerous) projects and side-projects (including his terrific hip-hop thing Art of Fresh), and finding myself almost perpetually amazed at his gift for melody, structure, mood, and flow. Whatever the name behind the music he's putting forward (and this can be a bit confusing, to be sure, between his alter egos and bands), and whether he's working straight hip-hop, neo-soul, old school soul, or smooth disco-inflected grooves, Slakah seems completely at home.

But, it's more than this (obviously) that keeps me interested. It's that, finally, all of this music feels somehow ahead of me, us; I reach toward him and his musical expressions. He's a vanguard figure, in this way, to me. He's bringing a vibrant immediacy to music that feels simultaneously familiar, classic and yet challengingly, thrillingly forward looking.

The Other Side of Tomorrow is his best record yet. (This is saying a great deal considering the masterwork of soulful smoothnicity that was 2010's Something Forever, straight-up credited as a Slakah the Beatchild album.) It is a soaring collection of trippy soul, a kind of cross between Songs in the Key of Life-era Stevie Wonder and early 1990s Lenny Kravitz by way of King Tubby's studio. It is at once chock full of catchy melodies, affecting lyrics, strong head-bobbing rhythms, and clever studio arrangement. It sounds great, but it feels even better.

Find out more about Slakah at his WordPress site.

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