Saturday, 24 September 2011

ALBUM Miguel Migs - Outside The Skyline

For Migs' third studio album, he's joined by a truly stellar list of collaborators. Reggae heroes Half Pint, Freddie MacGregor and Capleton; Meshell Ndegeocello, Georg Levin and Bebel Gilberto from the worlds of jazz and leftfield hip-hop, and original disco diva Evelyn 'Champagne' King are ably aided and abetted by Migs' regular partners-in-crime Aya and the inimitable Lisa Shaw.

That he's able to attract such a cast into his studio speaks volumes for how far Migs has come: with a string of awards behind him, not to mention countless high-profile remixes for Billboard Top 100 A-listers (everyone from Macy Gray to Britney Spears), this is one producer who's well and truly moved beyond the underground deep house ghetto. And that, you see, is both Outside The Skyline's greatest strength… and its weakness.

For while its pigeonhole-defying approach is undoubtedly indicative of a producer starting to really stretch his musical wings – while Migs' songwriting craft is unquestionable – and while it pains me to make any sort of criticism, simply because Migs is one of the nicest and humblest guys working in dance music today – the overall effect is just a little, well… polite. Reggae, broken beat and leftfield/chill-out vibes are all on offer but if you had to file this in a record shop, 'soul-jazz' is where you'd most likely want to put it overall, and you can't help casting one eye wistfully back towards the dancefloor.

Don't get me wrong, there are some gems here for sure. Everybody (with Evelyn 'Champagne' King), The System (with Capleton) and Don't Stop (with Aya) stand out, and Lisa Shaw's vocals on Breakdown and Lose Control do their usual thing of turning your knees (well all right, my knees) to jelly. But it's telling that the three tracks namechecked – flirting respectively with disco, dancehall and the kind of sultry, grown-up house-pop that made Stonebridge's Can't Get Enough album such a surprising delight some years ago – are those moments where Outside The Skyline is at its most dancefloor-oriented.

It's an album that could easily have mass appeal, and if you're a long-term fan of Migs and that whole Naked Music vibe, you'll want Outside The Skyline in your collection for sure. But you're most likely to play it when non-clubbing friends come round for canapes and cocktails. When you want some o'dat raw, bumpin' underground shizzle of the kind that Migs made his name with, it's Salted's string of excellent 12-inch releases that you'll want to reach for instead.

But maybe I'm just not grown-up enough yet, or something – personally, I still like the beats that go boom! So do check this for yourself – it is, in its own way, a fine album.

Out: This week

About: After previous adventures on Virgin/Astralwerks, this comes on Migs' own Salted Music… who it's only fair to point out do still turn out a fine line in deep, jacking house on a regular basis, so it's not like the boy's forgotten us.

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