Al Dobson Jr’s stylings are gracing our ears once more. Are we happy about it? Damn straight we are. Bubbling up in 2013, the Peckham beatmaker and percussionist has proved to be a trailblazer in marrying influences and evoking vivid feeling through his raw rhythmic exploits. After two sought after releases on Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section label, Rye Lane Volumes II & III represents his long-awaited debut album and the label’s tenth release.
ADJr continues his mastered approach, offering up live takes and sketching a journey across continents with the help of intricate rhythmic pitter-patters and titillating percussion. This continuous stream of good vibes is your ticket to a bustling souk in Beirut, a jaunt to Peru and a sun-drenched shuffle in Guadeloupe. Volume I, also an international affair, saw comparisons made with Mo Kolours and Henry Wu, but certain cuts on this contribution, particularly ‘Church Café (Introduction)’, feel akin to recent productions coming out of the Money $ex Records camp. It could be the nod to hip-hop and the smooth jazz infusions that throw yet more flavours into the melting pot, demonstrating that his influences span far afield.
What is also apparent is his clarity of vision. To some listeners this may seem like a barrage of sounds, but far from it. It feels like a carefully curated jam, each element intended to be there and all beautifully guided by shimmering percussion with a perpetual warm bump trundling below. Like the first volume, the majority of tracks are short – interludes of sorts – leaving you wanting more, quickly tantalising you onto the next. Others boast smooth transitions that hook you in.
Each track holds its own identity, its own character, but of course there are some real standout grooves. ‘Life At Makeover’ is a model opener, a countdown to tittering hi-hats and a deep bounce that impulsively gives way to soft swaying puffs of sax and shimmering synths. Taking things down a notch, ‘Xingu’ brings a shuffling bassline and cadenced drumbeats, all blessed with simple glowing keys.
Easing up the tempo, we skip across Europe for ‘Overseas, Lebanese’, pitching Middle-Eastern flavours and effortlessly ushering you into uncharted territories. You’d be forgiven for closing your eyes and imagining yourself weaving through the alleyways of Rue Hamra.
We are then thrusted back into soul-flecked beats as laughter and dialogue invites us into ‘What It Is – Shakedown‘. Whispered vocals and a glistening crescendo come to fruition, all sustained by an unassuming groove. Conjuring up cleansing feelings, the smooth piano licks of ‘In The World’ let you drift away for two minutes before intermittent chatter comes to the fore, dreamily spread over subtle thuds of bass and sparse percussive trickles.
One of the four cuts on the LP exceeding the three minute mark, ‘Drum Sounds pt.4 African Salon’ does exactly what it says on the tin. The percussion is engrossing, the limber bassline bobbing and weaving through tambourine shakes, ringing bells and hushed vocal samples. Inevitably, this track, and much of the LP are saturated in wonderful drum smatterings, ‘Malfuf Nabeti‘ being no exception. Driven by a muffled bump and signature erratic drum patterns, without warning a slither of keys and interstellar oscillating notes make an appearance. This one’s sure to get shoulders bopping. Exhibiting yet another example of far flung inspirations, penultimate number ‘White Rum’ draws influence from reggae and dub; a short burst of sunshine coming complete with that authentic vinyl crackle.
Boiling down these diverse stimuli to create a compilation that’s recognisably individual is no easy feat, but Al Dobson Jr has managed it once again. Furthermore it’s rousing to hear another partnership with Rhythm Section as his musical exploits really couldn’t be better placed. This long player is exactly what Rhythm Section is about: a thorough appreciation for those magical sounds crafted across the globe and a vibrant initiative to root them in the streets of Peckham and beyond.