en: Rhythm & Hymns [info]
Best known for the single Big City Life (a worldwide hit in 2005) Mattafix are a London-based duo made up of singer Marlon Roudette and his 'unashamed computer geek' sidekick Preetesh Hirji, who takes care of programming, knob twiddling and so on. Their name is a take on the Caribbean patois expression
'matter fixed' i.e. no problem – a reference to Roudette's family connections in St. Vincent – and they mix up smooth R&B;, hip hop, ragga, pop and rock influences with an array of world music flavours.
It's this, along with a slightly over-produced sound that gives Mattafix's music a passing similarity with that of 1 Giant Leap.
Roudette's soulfully androgenous voice soon emerges as their main draw. Brian Kennedy, Will Young and Smokey Robinson are all reasonable comparisons, except when Roudette slips into his trademark (and somewhat more macho) ragga-style choruses, as on the skanking Angel and Things Have Changed. Despite the lyrical theme of loss, the latter's uplifting tone, slinky North African-inflected strings, 'flute-boxing' (beat box flute, okay?) and glossy production values make it the most likely candidate for another significant hit. Even so, the nagging question as to whether there's enough else of merit lingers in the mind once the last third of the album has passed by almost unnoticed.
Things start confidently enough with the muscular strut of Shake Your Limbs, which benefits from the inclusion of an angry rap by South African kwaito star Zola. He reappears less effectively on Memories of Soweto and there's more South African ambience on Stranger Forever and Living Dafur, the latter begging the question of why they didn't use a Sudanese artist such as Emmanuel Jal. Freeman features some nicely understated steel pan from Roudette, but there are places where his lyrics – described as 'thoughtful' in the press release – begin to pall. Overall, Rhythm & Hymns is occasionally more worthy than worthwhile and has a tendency to veer into ghetto-lite autopilot. It has its share of pop hooks, but attempts to square this with its world music sympathies don't always come off.