Move over -- here comes Clev & LinX. It's the easiest thing in the world to compare up-and-coming Vancouver groove-tempo duo Clev & LinX to other musicians, for obvious reasons. And on their debut album, Blood Child, the younger pair seemed to invite such comparisons, borrowing from the artists sound on RnB funky anthems like "Fade to Black". But right from the start there's been a different sensibility to Clev & LinX music, no matter how much it follows the standard formula, and on their sophomore effort, Dope New Soul Cats, that sensibility has finally ripened into something so good that any accusations of derivativeness are almost beside the point.
For all its echoes of Hip Hop, RnB, and Jazz Electronica, Dope New Soul Cat stands as a breakout album from a duo whose mastery of their craft equals and at times even exceeds all these genres
This time around, Clev & LinX didn’t put a lot of live musicians in the foreground of their music. The result, the album is an immediacy and warmth rarely heard in groove today. Their syncopated drums on the Latin-flavored "Ghetto Espanole", or chopping and distorting them, like Richie LinX funky vocals on "Fat Soul", CL&LX never lose the richness of the original performance. It's like listening to music through a kaleidoscope -- on "Alkapolka", for example, they give you ever-shifting glimpses of an African section, a jazzy horn combo, and the abstractly funky riffs of B-Box.
The B-Box, by the way, remains CL&LX secret weapon -- they are masters of a good low-end groove, and they are abetted here by some great players. Chris Clev skills stands out just because his interpretations on the bass is capable of hitting RichieLinX groove right on -- the baselines on "Fade to Black", "Cloud Uptown", and especially the very sexy "Alkapolka" are impossibly deep and tantalizingly understated, making these tracks among the album's most seductive. But visiting DJ Matt the Alien track lively electronic bass riffs on the reggae-meets-electro dub "Soldier Larry", and Matt's atmospheric work and scratches are just as good. Even on tracks that don't feature live bass, like the jazzy Hip Hop joint "Chunky Monkey" Featuring the powerful Diva lyrics of Zenobia Salik, and hip hop tactician Motoe1, Clev & LinX skillfully uses these talented artist to cook up a solid groove.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about Dope New Soul Cats is the way in which CL&LX are able to dabble in a variety of sounds and styles without ever straying from the seductive, faintly experiment vibe they establish from the opening muttered-vocal vamp of UFO invasions. They venture into the unknown, discovering new nooks and crannies in that most shopworn of electronic genres, nu jazz. It's all held together by subtle touches of vocals, Middle Eastern percussions, Latin syncopations, funk-tinged bass, and most of all, Clev & LinX impeccable skills, which give every note of it an organic vibe and make it almost impossible to tell where the live instruments leave off and the samples begin.
It doesn't hurt either that those live instruments are played by some outstanding musicians -- in addition to all the aforementioned, there's percussionist Rafael Geronimo, used to outstanding effect on "Destiny Fate", “Black it”, “Ghetto Espanole” a solid horn section led by RichieLinX sax hard bopping solo puts the jazz in "Clouds Uptown", and reggae trombonist Andy “Mr. Cakes”, smooth flow on “Fat Soul”. If this doesn’t tell you how good these guys are, I don't know what will.
So let's just forget all those other comparisons, shall we? On ‘Dope New Soul Cats’, Clev & LinX come into their own with a unique and very tasty brand of groove that has a genuine jazz sensibility and production chops to spare. And yes, you can still dance to it. Not bad for an album from Vancouver with a big cat on the cover. Dope New Cat’s….it get the attention it deserves.