Review: Jack Foley
ROOTS Manuva, aka Rodney Smith, describes his third album, Awfully
Deep, as his most creative and ambitious yet.
He attributes the progression to relaxing and ceasing to worry
about creating radio tunes or club tunes, as well as ceasing to
worry about not creating them.
Instead, he claims to have found a way to close the gap between
making ditties on his laptop for fun and making truly great music
for the world at large.
The result is undoubtedly the best album of his career to date,
rich in the distinctive Roots Manuva style and capable of delivering
more than its fair share of great surprises.
Lead single, Colossal Insight, for example, is an electro-psych
workout that eschews all the values we have come to expect from
Roots Manuva, as well as a grinding beat, and a somewhat more
chart-friendly vibe (it even came with remixes from the likes
While the rapid, urgent beats of Chin High are evidence
of an artist who is growing in confidence all the time.
The Falling, too, is a really good track, featuring
a nicely relaxed beat and some good melodies, yet retaining the
hard-edged lyrics that are the artist's trademark.
That said, Roots Manuva sceptics will probably still be alienated
by his distinct vocal style, which is very raw, very deep and
occasionally not right for the beats that accompany the music.
Rebel Heart, for instance, with its off-kilter, sub-operatic
backing vocals, is an example of the artist at his most leftfield
While Thinking simply doesn't do enough to warrant getting
excited about - a failing that can be attributed to a few too
Indeed, there are plenty of moments which bring back unwelcome
memories of his most grating track, Witness (One Hope),
which was just too urban and repetitive for its own good.
Given the mixture of styles, it is little wonder to find that
Awfully Deep is described as 'the most completely Roots
Manuva produced album of his career'.
It features a number of like-minded conspirators, such as Steve
Dub, who engineered and produced, the Easy Access Orchestra, who
wrote, produced and played musical layers, as well as long-time
cohort, Lotek, who produced and dropped a verse on Move Ya Loin,
but none of them were allowed to take a beat and simply rap on
it - but were instead genuine collaborators that have the Manuva
thumbprint all over them.
If you like that thumbprint, then rush out and buy this; but
if you haven't got the whole Roots Manuva thing so far, then you'll
probably be sticking your fingers in your ears!
For me, it's an album of mixed emotions enlivened by a couple
of genuinely stand-out moments.
1. Mind 2 Motion
2. Awfully Deep
3. Cause for Pause Pt 1
4. Colossal Insight
5. Too Cold
6. A Haunting
7. Rebel Heart
8. Chin High
9. Babylon Medicine
10. Cause for Pause Pt 2
11. Move Ya Loin
13. The Falling