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Jazz. hip-hop, grime, dubstep


Joe Armon-Jones and Maxwell Owin
Joe Armon-Jones and Maxwell Owin: Archetype
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Joe Armon-Jones and Maxwell Owin may not be household names, but in and around the bustling, incredibly vibrant south London underground music scene they enjoy headliner status. Producer and DJ Owin operates in the grimier, more urban end of the musical spectrum, while Armon-Jones is best known as a permanent member of pioneering London Jazz outfit Extra Collective, where he provides exquisitely funky keys to complement the bold brass and exquisite percussion the group are famed for. But he has also appeared on recordings by Moses Boyd, Binker Golding and as part of the house band on Giles Peterson’s excellent, London-scene-focused MV4 album.

Together they promise a heady mix of Jazz, Hip-Hop and the UK’s own Grime and Dubstep. This is an incredibly fertile musical space right now, with crossovers, guest appearances and mutual respect very much the order of the day. All of which is to the listener’s benefit, because there are some cracking records coming out of there.

The dynamic duo first worked together on 2017’s Idiom EP, with Armon-Jones on keyboards and Owin on production duties, plus the exceptional Nubya Garcia on tenor sax on one of the tracks. The six-track offering was purely instrumental and more focused on Armon-Jones’s undoubted ability on the keys; but it definitely suggested that the pair should collaborate again.

A full five years on we have Archetype, a 12-track LP that takes that early promise and doubles down on it magnificently. However, Archetype takes a different approach to Idiom. There are still Jazzy elements in there, and London Jazz master Shabaka Hutchins appears on the track Rago’s Garage, but the softer tones of his clarinet playing (he claims to have now given up the saxophone) are a far cry from Garcia’s sax on Idiom.

From the opening title track, electronic beats, the sound of sirens (subtly in the background) and considerably more loops than keyboards let you know this isn’t going to be another album of Armon-Jones simply doing his thing. Alongside this, the addition of vocals add considerably to the overall feeling of a move away from Jazz, while also anchoring the record solidly south of the Thames. Vocalists include the excellent Lex Amor, who on the track Grief delivers one of the standout performances of the whole album, and Rocks FOE, a French-Ghanaian Hip-Hop artist who brings his own intense styling to the excellent 4Seasons.

One track that is solidly Jazz-based and does feature vocals is the wonderful Don’t Tip Me Over featuring Fatima. It also boasts some of Armon-Jones’ most dexterous keyboard work on the album, with a subtle waterfall of notes perfectly accompanying the sensational soul-fused vocals.

Elsewhere, Pedal Bike takes the intensity down a notch or two, away from the clubs and into the chill out tent – it even has the chirping of birds and nature to calm things down. It’s a beautiful moment and provides a well-crafted respite before things start to heat up again.

The closing Adrenaline/Oxygen rounds things off in the same manner they started. A hectic, punchy finisher that clocks in at nine minutes but still manages to leave you wanting more – both in the sense of getting that first disc of this double LP out again and going back to the title track, but also to hear just how far this pair of creative powerhouses can push our understanding of established genres, in a way that makes us want to both dance and cry.

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