Undoubtedly 2020 has been a horrendous dark year for us all globally with lots of negativity. However, the music industry machine continues to roll out thousands of tracks to D.J.s across the world in a never-ending delivery of beats creating light, hope & comfort across our planet.
A powerful beacon of light in electronica arrives back this year after a ten-year hiatus since their last studio album – Faithless! Although 'to be fair' they never really went away. Remember that remix album they did in 2015 reworking Avicii, Claptone, Armin Van Buren? Rollo along with Sister Bliss created the band and 'Cheeky Records', an offshoot of the iconic Champion Records. Rollo & Bliss, with the unmistakable voice of Maxi Jazz, delivered some of the biggest electronic anthems of the last 30 years.
No one can forget the historic 'synth drops' of 'Insomnia', 'We Come One', 'God Is A DJ' & 'Music Matters' to name a few all coming from the same stable of that iconic sound system. The band gave us 25 years of music, seventeen Top 40 singles, a Mercury Music Prize, and Multi-Platinum music sales totalling to more than 15 million and working alongside some of the biggest names in music globally including Robbie Williams, Tiesto, Example to name a few. And not forgetting launching Rollo's sister Dido's career. Remember that voice on that Eminem track 'Stan'?
Fast forward to Friday 23rd October 2020 this day sees the launch of Faithless next studio album All Blessed. Full of brand new tracks featuring Jazzie B, Suli Breaks, Gaika, Caleb Femi, L.S.K., and Damien Jurado BUT without the sound of Maxi Jazz. Why? The decision was amicable. Maxi is now working with his band The E Types. Bliss explains "We miss him, but, in a way, he's still there. He set the bar so high with this lyrics and vocals - that's something that everyone was mindful of. Faithless last tour was called ‘Passing The Baton' an interesting segue way that none of us probably understood at that time. Bliss explains further “It feels like we are passing the baton on this record to this crop of new, very fresh, thoughtful, intelligent voices and artists.”
Over the years, the beauty of this band was their ability to put many different genres of electronica side by side on so many albums yet make them sound as one; this echoes Bliss 'I recently did a Tim's Twitter Listening Party, and I hadn't listened to Reverence for a good 15 years. It brought home to me how eclectic, naïve, and I guess quite brave we were!' This, to me, is Faithless in a sentence. Full stop!
Faithless have been working on this album and creating these tracks since 2016, beginning with 'Poetry' featuring Youtube sensation & British Poet Suli-Breaks. The track describes today's situation, morning commutes, love, relationships trials & tribulations of everyday life and 'daily grind', starting with an ambient vibe and moving into the groove. Bliss explains about Suli-Breaks "We asked him to write about finding poetry in every day, the 'normal-ness' of things and he, in turn, brought some faith to Faithless. Suli is a Poet, a wordsmith, and has a tone to his voice that reflects many of his themes- warm and engaging, positive but thoughtful.'
Moving seamlessly from 'Gains' and into 'I Need Someone feat. Nathan Ball & Caleb Femi' I can hear that distinctive synth build of the band, again with an atmospheric drop into a warm, cool and youthful sound of Nathan Ball talking about making a 'phone call' because 'I Need Someone' alongside another poet Caleb Fimi. Caleb was named as London's Young Poet Laureate in 2016, himself a victim of today's cruel world, shot and almost killed as a teenager. Rollo explains about finding Caleb “Bliss heard him reading his poetry” Listening to his rich and warm voice alongside Nathan Bell it fits perfectly and almost like a young Maxi Jazz – what a voice he has.
'Remember' is a total switch bringing us back to a reggae-infused Dubstep groove sound again feat Suli Breaks & L.S.K., showing as always Faithless are not just 'one trek ponies' creating four to the floor bangers. 'Synthesizer feat. Nathan Ball' was the teaser to the album at the end of the summer and is the absolute 'fire' track that we've been waiting for! A big synth riff that Sister Bliss created alongside the newly found Nathan Ball working with his guitarist Max Rad, (apparently a track produced in one night).
An emergency siren and an atmospheric and ambient feel take us further into the album, a 'Gothic hip hop' track 'My Town feat: Gaika from the historic Warp Records stable of the late 80s. Rollo explains "I heard his album 'Basic Volume', which I totally loved. His voice on some tracks is like a bass line. Incredible."
Immigration is an underlying theme in the album. Gaika on 'My Town' talks bout “I’m not foreign, I’m just human” reminiscent for me personally of a Leftfield Leftism sounding track. I love it! This album has something for everyone 'Friendship' is beautifully chilled out, again a throwback sound to K.L.F. White Room. I hear Celtic ambience with a Scottish voice, moving into 'Walk In My Shoes' starting with explicit lyrics of today's society and racial hatred, 'Im not foreign, I'm just human'....'Try Try Try..to walk in my shoes'.
The title track to the album 'All Blessed' begins then quickly kicks into a driving baseline, wispy atmospheric synth lines and into a drop that is reminiscent of the iconic 'God Is A DJ' - its everything you want it to be and more.
It leads to a crossroads where new voices meet historic voices with 'Innadadance feat. Suli Breaks & Jazzie B'. Let's just lay this out as it is... Soul II Soul meets Faithless along with Suli-Breaks. Wow! I hear a 'four to the floor' with a Reggae feel; these are late 1980s issues still very much apparent in 2020 essentially Soul II Soul track produced by Faithless, Amazing!
The last track on the album is 'Take Your Time feat. Damien Jurado & Suli Breaks'. The song has a chilled out vibe and is a definitive end to the album and a welcome return from the band I genuinely didn't think would ever come back. I often questioned if they did how would they fit into this even faster-paced ever-changing sound of Electronica.
This album is a trip... It's Faithless 3.0. We are 'All Blessed', and we need to remember that. Rollo & Sister Bliss as Faithless reaffirms this message continually on this record with their collaborations with new and old friends. Thank you for this message thank you for a return to your music. Welcome back old trusted friends, we still love you.