Xtasy – E Je Ka Jo (PMG, Reissue, 2016)

Afro boogie meets polished 80s American disco on this superb release of good grooves.

The 80s certainly was an interesting moment in time for disco. Despite being forced underground by the Disco Sucks backlash, the deal was sealed in globally exporting the sounds of the classic disco era of 76-79, as airwaves around the world grooved to the sounds of Chic, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool and the Gang, Shalamar etc etc etc. Due to its infectious positivity and groovability, many round the globe were inspired to hybridise the genre with their own locally sourced sounds. As mentioned previously in reviews by this writer, Britain, Brazil, Japan and Africa became hot beds of exporting their own take on disco, incorporating the riffs and the sounds into cuts that reflected both sides of the spectrum. This allowed the genre to remain fresh, whilst showcasing many a talent from around the world, which we are all blessed to be getting to know after all these years.

Xtasy only made one record, but what a record it is. Roy and Stella Bruce, the heads behind the band, had a brother in LA, Ben Murray Bruce, who flew them out there to record some tracks of that would make up their debut album. By bringing in experienced and talented session players, such as Greg Wright and Keni Burke (damn!), the record takes the form of a collection of songs that are sharp, expertly delivered but also displaying the many flavours of boogie and 80s disco. It brings through a lot of African influence, in the musical variety that exhibits itself throughout tracks, alongside the sensibilities of more sophisticated and somewhat serious disco tunes from the time period. The album is fantastic as a result, and allows us time to rest between dances with slowed down heaters to tug at the heart strings. Warm synths and guitar licks meet up with some impressive vocal displays, with the pair seamlessly moving between each other with undoubted chemistry. The moments where the dance floor light up are particularly noteworthy, where the groove takes on a mind of its own and just flourishes within the brilliant instrumentation of it all. Despite being recorded in America, the album was only released in Nigeria, the home country of the Bruce siblings, and never received an international release. As a result, it became a somewhat holy grail of boogie fans, a unique record that took the genre to new heights, and was only found in the hands of local collectors or the very well travelled ones. Now, thanks to PMG, it got the more international distribution the record always deserved and was promised, so lets take a damn dip already!

First up we have ‘Eje Ka Jo’, that introduces us to the spectrum of sounds we are just happily awaiting from this record. The bass slaps hard in a effortless groove, as the drum retains the beat underneath. Guitar and keys throw their names into the hat, as the melodic section moves the tune forward. This groove then leads into the chanted chorus, that really gets the fire burning and the feet moving. Just like that, we swing back into the first verse, the vocals soft and never too far reaching, perfectly complimenting the music underneath. The second chorus stretches into the bridge, as the vocals really move up a notch, a series of lines that just keep going higher and higher. The Bruce siblings really do have smooth as hell voices, they melt like butter in the ears. Its wonderful to feel both the instrumentation and vocal parts flux and flex together, they really do just sway together so beautifully. This all just adds up to such a pleasurable listening experience, you just want to move along to the words. Next comes ‘Feels so Good’, and this one takes a more slowed view of things. It has more of a reggae, afro beat swing to it, as the vocals take more of a literal stance, more spoken word than high energy disco. The guitar and the keys do their work here, stabbing down hard, as the Bruces vocal work stands out once again. Its a nice contrast to the high tempo of the opener, this tracks displaying some more odd ball off kilter work and experimentation. Next comes ‘Be With You’, and yes the boogie comes out here! the lead synths in the opening bars so sweet and pure, which gives way for the opening verse. The emotive feels are all over this one, the interplays are absolutely top notch, you can feel the collectiveness come together here perfectly. All this adds up to a slowed down boogie classic, and a sax solo to boot! oh damn this is smooth as fuck, everything just clicks. The transitions are solid gold, the sleekness is pure. All is here, all is well.

Next comes the absolute stomper that is ‘Let your body go (Instrumental). The drums kick us off, and it just descends in this absolutely powerful groove, one that cannot be denied. The guitar and keys combine perfectly to dip down and move around, whilst the breakdowns that occur every now and then provide an awesome respite, as deep synths chime in for good measure. It all falls away, leaving just the drums and the softly spoken line ‘let your body and shake’, and it just gets the room moving. Walls falling over. Bricks shaking. It just builds and builds and builds, as it all just comes back in like a fucking train with a mind of its own. Its utterly, utterly brilliant, one of the finest moments in any disco tune. Seriously, just listen to it. How to do a build up without really doing one at all. Next comes ‘Throw Down’, and oh boy does this one keep the fire burning. The dense thickness of 80s disco comes through hard on this one, the pumped up beat complete with a destructive guitar riff from up above, make for a heart beating in your chest sort of experience. The vocal work is great once again, bringing in the emotions high, the keys also chiming along brilliantly. after some chorus lines, it all just breaks down into this incredible interplay between synths and guitar, and its just fucking unreal. So fucking good. To finish things up, we have ‘Light Of You’, that takes down to the mellow side of the night. Deep vocal work interlaced with soft wailing guitars, dreamy synths and bowl like reverbs take us away into starry nights, cold cocktails on the balcony, overlooking scenes in the wide wide world in front of us. A song to hold on to, a memory to last for ever. As the song says, these things are forever. Finally, ‘Isale-Eko’ completes the record, taking ‘Let Your Body Go’ and injecting a layer of vocals into it. This is a welcomed alternative to the instrumental, giving the tune another alternative edge to it, as we are taking away by its strong as hell narrative. The vocals work along perfectly with the instruments, taking us on a proper workout with the words to match. The intensity burns bright at both ends, such a tune.

An album that shines and blossoms, all the vibes are here, no matter what mood you are in. The siblings combine their expert vision with the contributions of the impeccable backing band, who inject levels of funk and groove that elevates this record to new heights. A sleek, musically outstanding collection of songs, we just wanna take each others hands and go for a magical spin throughout the night, on a shaking dancefloor. But remember to have a couch at the side for a sit down, where the moments of utter fenziedness are abandoned for tenderness, soft and slow split seconds where we just reflect and smile at one another. A boogie for the ages, a timeless groove that will last forever more.

Support the troops here:

https://pmg-label.bandcamp.com/album/xtasy-e-je-ka-jo-1984-2016

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