Believers Vol. 1
Released 13th November 2020
Scrimshire’s silky fusion of nu-soul and contemporary jazz is just what’s needed in the world right now. It’s a brilliant feelgood album that drops just in time. Gordon Rutherford reviews for Louder Than War.
Everyone dreads Black Friday, right? It’s that portentous day when you furiously resist the requirement to crawl out from under the duvet, lest any misfortunate occur. This year you can put all of that superstitious old chutney to one side, because Friday 13th November 2020 has an altogether different vibe. Cue the release of Scrimshire’s outstanding new album, Believers Vol. 1.
In case you don’t know, the man behind the moniker is Adam Scrimshire, co-founder of South London soul-focused label, Albert’s Favourites. Scrimshire is no novice; Believers Vol. 1 is actually his fifth album and it follows hard on the heels of 2019’s excellent, critically acclaimed, Listeners.
We may well be on the cusp of the long dark nights and winter woes, but Believers Vol. 1 is such an antidote to that bleak prospect. This album is a fortifying, elevating experience; like being wrapped in the wings of an angel. It is an uplifting and affirmative collection that is guaranteed to banish the blues in these crazy, insecure times of pandemics and polluted politics.
It is nigh on impossible to pick out a highlight from Believers Vol. 1. Every single track stands out in its own right, with precisely zero filler in these grooves. The furious, energetic afro-beat of Anadwo exuberantly kicks off proceedings, exploding out of the blocks like Usain Bolt at the London Olympics. This collaboration with Ghanaian artist K.O.G. is an absolute celebration and is guaranteed to get the party started. The absolutely sublime Where Are We is up next, bringing snappy, hooky nu-soul and featuring the outstanding, honey-like voice of Stac.
Lost In Space And Time introduces a different, but equally dazzling, vocal collaborator in the shape of Brighton-based Bessi (how come Scrimshire has access to so many brilliant vocalists?). This electronic nu-soul track swings and sashays beautifully. It is coolness personified. Things then mellow out with the jazzy Chance Me. This collaboration with And Is Phi is quite sumptuous with Scrimshire’s beautiful keys and understated guitar providing the perfect platform for And Is Phi’s voice.
That laidback vibe continues with the outstanding Transformation. This gorgeous, hypnotic instrumental is wonderfully performed and if you lie back and listen intensely, it will transport you to another, better, place. The outstanding flute of Tamar Osborn must be called out here. It is like a pipistrello on an infinitesimal pipe, swooping and dancing across the grooves and utterly transfixing you.
The Latin-jazz fusion of Tante Tiempo follows. Scrimshire’s terse, anticipatory piano chords introduce the track in a way that summons the spirit of Thelonius Monk’s Epistrophy. The genre-defying quarter, Penya, take the stage and suddenly we have a rumba going on, provoking frenzied percussion, the soaring colossus of Viva Msimang’s trombone and Latin chanting featuring the voice of Lilli Elina. It is quite wonderful.
If there is a stand out track, a case could be made for Love Is Loving. This track, featuring Omar, Xana and Faye Houston is pure hot buttered soul that would be comfortably at home on any of Stevie Wonder’s classic early seventies classic albums. It is that good. The cosmic-jazz instrumental, Peaceless Peace, brings Believers Vol. 1 to an all-too-soon close. Like an Edward Hopper masterpiece, it’s all late-night, smoky piano bar feels and it is a quite beautiful comedown. I loved the 1950’s jazz-influenced piano that Scrimshire brings to the party here and as the track unfolds it’s as if it motors through the ages to reach a point where it suddenly feels like a Kamasi Washington number, with the heavenly choir and all.
And that’s it. That’s how you do it, folks. Only eight tracks, but Scrimshire makes every damn second count. It feels cohesive and joined up, whilst bringing incredible diversity between those eight songs. I’m struggling to recall another album this year that instilled such a sense of optimism and warmth in me and that’s no mean feat as we sit here in the midst of Lockdown Mark Two. I genuinely don’t think I am overstating things by describing Believers Vol. 1 as one of the albums of the year. It really is quite an achievement in terms of its vocal performances, collaborations, musical brilliance, song-writing and production quality.
Last year, Scrimshire’s Listeners got some great exposure, including a slot as BBC 6 Music’s Album of the Day. Believers Vol. 1 deserves even more and if there is any justice in this world, it will happen. Scrimshire describes it as a “love letter to black music” and that summary feels just about perfect. So, give it a spin. Because, it’s guaranteed to make those Black Friday blues disappear.
All words by Gordon Rutherford. More writing by Gordon can be found in his archive.