»Message In Our Music«- such is the name of a song by Philly Soul group The O´Jays.
But it could also be the album´s motif by the four Stuttgart
DJs and producers of Dublex Inc.. Because "Phoenix"- the album´s title, turned out to be a classic soul album, transporting a "message". "Soulful sounds" whose protagonists nowadays are called Amy Winehouse, Raphael Saadiq or Duffy are dominating the clubs and stages worldwide - soul music connects them all. However, the reason for the four of them to go out and buy the same suits and record a soul album wasn´t the hipness factor . Dublex Inc. want to tread newpaths, want to convey a message, want to be authentic. They reinvented themselves on the way - just like a "phoenix rising out of the ashes". And by the way: they look great in their suits!
The quartet achieved their breakthrough back in 2001 featuring the club hit "Tango Forte", which turned them into co-producers of Sugarbabe´s hit "Round Round". Three years later their first album "Eight Ears" appeared. One remix chasing another created a heavy workload for Dublex Inc.´s studio. This explains why the long awaited follow up album took a little longer.
"The album was created out of our musical preferences"
"Phoenix" let´s these gentlemen and their music shine in a bright light. It is a mature product, which richly blends and puts together the different influences and musical preferences of Felix Stecher, Florian Pflüger, Rino Spadavecchia und Robin Hofmann aka Dublex Inc.. Much was thrown into the reference bag for that: wether Beat, Northern Soul or movie soundtracks- the reference points became more diverse and the desire to create a great, coherent oeuvre influenced the method of work stronger than previously. Just take the best of it and blend it with a considerable grain of Dublex Inc. spirit and sound! Such was the motto, resulting in a modern soul album which avoided to blunder into the retro trap.
"We wanted to bring more life into the studio, wanted to get away from pure sampling"
The direction was quickly set: to get away from pure sampling to more music playing. Guest musicians were to bring more life into the studio; various singers were to convey the album´s "message". They went into a studio equipped with much vintage gear, and produced the instrumentals.
Only after that were the singers chosen-in an up-to-date manner. Naturally musicians and producers are networking world wide via the internet.
Myspace is the magic word here, a platform which chiefly serves the self-portrayal and promotion of musicians and bands. But it also functions as a social network between artists.
In the case of "Phoenix" Myspace played a pivotal role in the production process. Dublex Inc. undertook a thorough search for possible singers. And they took
their time to find the right people. The fact that they were from Jakarta, Berlin, London, Helsinki, Dublin and Madrid was no problem at all, because the world wide web facilitated the exchange of music over national borders. This is what gives "Phoenix" this special, this international appeal, which befits this album outstandingly.
"Love Is The Message And The Message Is Love"
It quickly dawned on the Stuttgartians that "Phoenix was to deliver its message mainly on a lyrical level. What mattered most was to adress certain aspects of life- after all, one got a little older, gained more experience and wanted to pass it on. The album was supposed to have soul and therefore needed artists with soul in their voices. Singers who were able to pen down their life´s experience with much soulfulness and feeling. Singers who may have arrived at and taken stock of a similar point in life..
Who are these singers? Let´s start with Sandhy Son Doro, who has found a wider audience through Stefan Raab´s casting show, a popular segment within one of Germany´s most successful late night shows. The Indonesian born singer has been living in Berlin for many years and has released his debut album last year. Dublex Inc. heard the man, who was able to sing like Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, and got in touch with him. Sandhy was immediately ready for collaboration. The resultin feel-good number "Shine" is simultaneously the opener and first single release of "Phoenix". "Shine" has got soul, a beat reminiscent of The Root´s "Seed" and a healthy serving of pop in the chorus. Small wonder, the song was created in sunny Ibiza. Music written while and for vacationing. "Shine" has all the ingredients to become THE summer hit of the year. The Dynamic´s Remix which serves as the single´s bonus provides even more summer feeling and transports the four guys from Stuttgart straight to Jamaica.
From Madrid hails Mayka Edjole, whom we can hear on two tracks. She is also known as the front woman of "The Sweet Vandals" a Funk&Soul group she´s been touring the world with for several years. Maya refines "Rainy Day" whose late-sixties flair with organ and bubbly guitar serves as a prime example for a good-natured-rain-song - yes this genre does indeed exist! More about the second song at later point...
Ashley Slater gained noteriety mainly as singer and trombone player for the band "Freak Power" which he co-founded with Norman Cook a.k.a
Fatboy Slim and its hit "Turn In Turn On And Cop Out" from a LEVIS t.v
ad. It is his trombone which lends the song "The Game" its dub vibe which couldn´t have been done better by the Specials. But Ashley also wrote and performed the song´s lyrics. "The Game" is about someone who was abandoned and who is slowly loosing his grip on things. Featuring a remix by Nuremburg´s Boozoo Bajou this will be the album´s second single release.
"It Takes Time" captivates with its verse´s melody, penned by London based Bridgette Amofah. It is about a couple´s relationship, the continuous back and forth, about the daily time and hard work it takes to make a harmonious relationship possible. Dramatic strings and Bridgette´s smooth, sotto voice in the chorus: "It takes time to build our walls"- walls that are getting torn down by this singers enchanting voice.
Stee Downes hails from Dublin and has written two strong, verbal contributions with the songs "Changes" and "Something´s Missing". Stee could recently be heard on his first album on the Sonar Kollektiv label, which is ran by Berlin DJs and producers Jazzanova. His voice sounds cool. Such as in "Changes" whose stoic piano attack emphasizes the wish for changes. "Something´s Missing" is a rhythmically complex work, in which Stee Downes´ sonorous voice confidently floats over the slightly broken beat.
"Hell In A Handbag" was created in co-operation with finnish singer and keyboarder Tuomo, and is a number in the tradition of classic "soul message songs".
It wouldn´t even look too bad alongside "(Don´t Worry) If There´s Hell Below We´re All Gonna Go", on Curtis Mayfield´s first solo album. The prospect here is pretty bleak as well: "this world is going to hell in a handbag". Tuomo´s solution: "reach out for the ones you love"- look for love in the small things- in your husband, in your wife, in your family, with your friends-that´s S.O.U.L.! In any case Tuomo has learned his 70s soul lesson. His voice even resembles Master Curtis´ although without losing its own charm.
It gets more pop like and easy with the next song, in which a good friend of the band sounds her voice. Rosa´s charming-naively breathed mix of French and English lends "Un Peu Mais Pas Trop" a laid-backness which is very relaxing while at the same time spreading a considerable measure of pop appeal.
Spoonface from the U.K
. favors us with his lasciviously mumbling bass reminiscent of Barry White on the narrative part of "Unfold". This song carries a Mediterranean feel which sounds like live and let live. But Sponface is in conflict: "should I let it go, should I let me go, should we let this go?"- nevertheless this song, by all means, encourages to let go sometimes.
Dublex Inc. show that they can make it happen without lyrics just as well with "Black Pearl" and "Rock Star" the album´s only instrumental tracks. The latter being a wild ride with bongos, kettledrums and organs which seems to be a dancefloor filler with its t.v
. crime show vibe. "Black Pearl" on the other hand is pure relaxation. Its mood sounds somewhat like the music of an Italian "Spaghetti" western movie... but don´t worry, they are not shooting live ammo.
The honor of finishing off the album falls on Mayka Edjole. The four gentlemen have taylored her a completely new dress for "My Thrill". Mayka is wearing it very naturally, though. Her performance feels very much at home in those Drum&Bass type structures. As if she´s never done anything else!
The 49 minutes of "Phoenix" are a rounded affair - an album which was born out of musical friendships, and which forged a lot of real friendships. It doesn´t include a masterplan for world improvement, but it shows possibilities to change things on a small scale, in your immediate environment, through friendship and love. And it is an album which could be YOUR friend with its message. In quick manner.
Because just like the O´Jays:
We got a message in our music
There´s a message in our song
So open your ears and listen here!
You don´t have to do anything more!