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Taunton knob-twiddler Will Saul is perhaps best known as a resident at London breaks all-nighter HUM, alongside Rennie Pilgrem and Meat Katie. His warm up slots ply the floor not with steely breaks but with hip hop, jazz and broken beat.
Thus his breakbeat typecast should be discarded at the outset.
Anyone who already knows his productions and output at his open minded label Simple already knows. His debut album, Between Spaces, says it all: here is a man who enjoys the music that falls between the cracks, that fills the spaces between genres.
Working closely with Ninja Fink and Tam Cooper (Precision Cuts), Saul has crafted a sensitive and engaging project, collecting together a vast array of samples and live sounds and filtering them through retro technology like tape machines and analogue desks to create warm and sonorous soul nuggets.
Written shortly after a relationship break-up, the album wears Saul's heart on its sleeve, making the most of melancholic moods and nostalgic soundscapes.
The mellow atmospherics of "If Only" start the album on level footing, but on second track "Animal Magic" broken heart fragments bob gently amidst the broken beats.
The album accelerates gracefully. "Soul In Motion" thickens the rhythms but maintains a sense of introspection, vocalist Sandy Mill breathing human soul through electronic circuitry.
Philly poet-philosopher Ursula Rucker is enlisted on the album, dropping tales of time and technology over the bright skank of "Tic Toc", and pondering notions of personal freedom over the upbeat syncopation of "Where Is It?"
The album isn't all mawkish regret either: the layered, wide-screen pulse of "Mbira" is reminiscent of the deep tech of Ian Pooley, while the muffled house groove of "Heatwave" swims through currents of bass. "Speak & Spell", which enters the fray with a sassy hi-hats, is a dynamic nod to old skool electro.
Streaked with innovation and steeped in emotive sentiment, Spaces Between is elegant and heartfelt and pretty much the polar opposite of a standard breakbeat album.