Ever since the ’90s boom of edgy dance acts, groups such as Layo & Bushwacka! have taken European clubs by storm. Layo Paskin (founder of London’s The End) and former funk DJ Matthew “Bushwacka” B. (previously a rave jockey and partner in crime at The End) both decided to collaborate in 1999 for their first effort, Low Life. They met during a studio session, deciding to hone their collective art while still making room for individual ones. And much like their many peers — Adam Freeland, Leftfield, Silicone Soul — the duo prides itself on a myriad of styles that include breakbeat, tech-house and dub-reggae.
Night Works (their second LP), however, may be different than what fans are accustomed to. Sure you have all the aforementioned inspiration, but this CD rides a more uncharted trail. There’s a wider range of instrumentals and one heck of a seductive vibe.
While examining this experimentation of instruments, we’re also talking about the progression into other genres. These are rock, old skool breakbeats, blues — and each track becomes more in-depth than the next. Either it’s the pounding drum’n’bass of “Shining Through”, electro guitar chords of “We Meet at Last”, or rousing delta blues of “Sleepy Language”, which happens to be one of the finest cuts of the album. Wailing saxophones, trumpets, electric guitar, even samplers such as a clapping audience — it all induces goose bumps. It also proves that their capable of more aesthetic creativity than before.
Speaking of goose bumps, “Love Story” — the first single off the record — is another skin tickler. Held in high regard by other overachievers such as Darren Emerson and Sasha, the song carries an understandable admiration. Championing a strong bass line with highlighted samples of the great Nina Simone, the song’s arrangement is simplistic. It has a smooth, dark house rhythm that makes it hard not to wiggle. The vocals, on the other hand, add a cool effect to this power, as Simone’s words writhe among minor tones and dusky mood.
But dusky atmosphere doesn’t lend itself to a single song. One of the most intriguing aspects of the album is the aura of creepiness, sultriness and sensuality. Unlike many of today’s one-dimensional house acts — crafting only rambunctious tunes of the danceable kind — this group decides to add short interludes, marking their highly creative moods. Though it’s easy to see how these breaks appear unusual. Take, for instance, the swooping, mysterious “Vinyl”. While, at first listen, the track sounds like a horror film intro, it actually becomes a welcoming to the group’s new shadowy, yet sexy world. The desert mood of “Sahara”, clickety-clack of “Automate”, laser like zip of “Strike”, it all comes off as sporadic. But the variety, and obscurity, surrounding these tones and beats make it work.
Putting acid-house and rave parties behind them, this twosome has yet to see how far they can go. Layo & Bushwacka! hasn’t made that big a splash on U.S. waters. Though if one examines their growing popularity, you could easily say they’re a tsunami waiting to happen. All in all, Night Works isn’t just for clubbers. It happens to be a barrage of up-tempo grooves and down-tempo charmers. It’s this fusing of electronics, instrumentals and genres that will separate it from big beat acts — a.k.a The Chemical Brothers a.k.a. Fatboy Slim. Wilder sounds are emerging and if groups such as Layo & Bushwacka! keep jetting forward, it may be the standard by which our new generations of DJs abide.