Available on: Keysound LP
For their debut album Routes, evasive London trio LV have again teamed up with vocalist Joshua Idehen for a follow-up to last year’s collaborative 38 EP. The results are nothing short of excellent.
While LV may be best known for their output on Kode 9’s Hyperdub label, Keysound is the perfect home for this album. If Hyperdub is the label that keeps giving dubstep what it thinks it doesn’t need, then this release cements Keysound as the label that keeps giving London music it didn’t know it had.
Routes marks a logical progression from 38: Idehen is back on board for vocal duties, both titles refer to the capital’s modes of transports – the EP was a direct reference to the “legendary” 38 bus route while the album’s titles, and some tracks, refer the multitude of routes within the capital – and musically it’s a step forward from the more dubby, melancholic vibes of the EP.
I first got a copy of the album about a month or so ago, while in Japan for a six week period. I first listened to it on a train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto, and then again repeatedly over the following weeks while travelling around the Japanese capital. What struck me most in that time is just how much of a London album Routes is. And like similar London albums before it – The Bug’s London Zoo or Kode 9 & Spaceape’s debut Memories of the Future to keep it in the family – this innate London vibe it has makes it a perfect album to be enjoyed in any big city around the world. I’d use the adjective urban, but somehow I don’t think it’d work quite as well considering its current connotations.
Routes is beautiful, cohesive and fun. It flirts with styles, tempos and genres effortlessly, dipping and diving in a London-centric musical pool like overexcited kids in a lido on a hot summer day. Fun and eclectic is what marks the album apart from pretty much anything else you’ll have heard so far this year in term of dance music albums. Every track brings with it something new, changing tempo or style without any confusion on the part of the listener.
LV’s reggae and dub inclinations are still apparent on tracks like ‘Lean Back’ and ‘Murkish Delights’, but elsewhere the group tread further from their comfort zone than ever before, with an ecstatic rave climax on the short but oh-so-sweet ‘Primary Colours’, and explorations of UK Funky’s percussive nuances on the bouncy riddims of ‘Northern Line’ and ‘Melt’. At every turn something new appears and with every listen the album’s cohesiveness becomes more and more apparent.
Joshua Idehen meanwhile is the perfect fourth member in this musical equation. Much like Spaceape’s relationship to Kode9’s music, he’s an integral part of the album without ever becoming obvious or getting in your face. On ‘Primary Colours’, ‘Never Tired’ and ‘Tough’ his voice very much acts as an additional instrument, looking for space in the drum grooves and melting into the synths, but on the album’s more melancholic moments, such as ‘Past Tense’, he takes on a more poetic presence, with lyrics that should resonate deeply to anyone who’s lived in London. And then you have ‘Northern Line’ – easily one of the album’s stand out, and most approachable, moments – where he shines with lyrical prowess and humour. Idehen’s contribution to the album is a great encapsulation of many facets of England’s long standing, and constantly evolving, MC tradition.
Ultimately, Routes is an album that needs to be picked up and listened to from beginning to end in your own head, in your own space and yes, if possible, on public transport. It grows on you beautifully and will no doubt be among many end of year lists. But more importantly I know it’ll be an album I’ll come back to in the future – not least when I need to find some sense of direction.