Toddla T Toddla TWatch Me Dance
When I was 19 I used to watch “The Knight Rider”, spend most of my time in the comic book store and little else. Tom Bell, on the other hand, was already djing and producing beats at that age. The guy had a plan. In fact, in no time he turned from adolescent into a UK club sensation - a pop star archetype for the new British music loving generation. A splendid debut in 2009 - that shower of digital dancehall and fat basslines called “Skanky Skanky” - and one of the more memorable contributions to the Fabric series (FabricLive number 47) are his most famous achievements. His take-off has been too fast for the human eye. He's also got himself a show on BBC Radio One, he's remixed Hot Chip and Gorillaz (among others) and he's seen the big names of the urban scene dialling his phone number like mad men. At only 26, he's attracting big crowds to his sets with hysterical bass-lines. The release of his second album is a Big Thing on the British electronic music scene. London has a new favourite gladiator.
A word of advice though: those who are used to the nervous pulse and radioactive bass-lines Toddla T usually pulls out of his sleeve when djing will have to change their expectations slightly. Especially if the first thing they hear off of the album is the title track featuring Roots Manuva. The slap of P-Funk, disco-soul and club hip-hop is so hard, one is left somewhat perplexed; it’s an album with Ibiza written all over it. The initial impression is that Tom Bell wanted to make a summery record that would work both at sunset and dawn. Less doped-up bass-lines and more afternoon grooves, so to speak. And after listening to the album, the impression is confirmed. Heads up for “Take It Back” and “Cruise Control” - as if “Unfinished Sympathy” era Massive Attack, LTJ Bukem and Leftfield had recorded together. And let's not forget “How Beautiful It Would Be”, a Jamaican-flavoured hit with runaway Auto-tune and a beat so nineties it will make Damian Harris cry.
“Watch Me Dance” is definitely a club album, but on a different frequency. A frequency much more sensual, relaxed, eclectic and for any time of the day. The digit R&B of “Cherry Picking”, with Róisín Murphy, revives the best of Prince with an 8-bit defibrillator. The summery dancehall of “Streets So Warm” is perfect to dance booty to crotch in front of a jar of sangria in some beach bar. “Body Good”, one of the best tracks, sounds like a collaboration between M.I.A. and The Neptunes. “Badman Flu” resurrects Soul II Soul and Bomb The Bass; revitalising that accelerated break-beat with touches of disco-soul that was so in fashion in late eighties Britain. Finally “Fly” - with Ms. Dymanite as Jill Scott - is a piece of reggae candy, ideal to close off the better beach party. Sorry, I have to go now, there's a girl here who needs more sunscreen on her back.