Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Josh Fahy, Good Lekker – Yussef Kamaal, Black Focus (2016)
I’ve never been to London, but that hasn’t stopped me from hammering on way too long about how the jazz scene over there must be the best in the world. While countless outstanding records have emerged in the last decade alone, I think that Yussef Kamaals’ Black Focus might be my one true love.
From memory, Black Focus came into my life as highly recommended listening from my brother. I liked it right away, but my love for it was a slow burner. I think I entirely fell for it after picking it up from Northside Records in Melbourne while recording our debut EP. Back at my place in Wollongong, it’s never far from rotation. Especially after dark where its status as a ‘night record’ solidifies. There’s something about how ‘London’ this record sounds that makes it so well suited for the night.
Personally, I’ve always attributed a lot of this to Dayes’ drumming. It’s soulful, fractured and outrageously unique. The instrumentation isn’t lacking, far from it, but the drumming stands above the rest. I’m a big fan of Dayes in general – I’d probably slot him in as captain if I had to pick a team of musicians who inspire me to make more music.
For those unacquainted, Yussef Kamaal was the joint project of Kamaal Williams (keys) and Yussef Dayes (drums). They went separate ways shortly after the album’s release and have remained out of touch. This never ceases to disappoint me whenever I listen to Black Focus. For the debut album of a jazz project, its moments of brilliance allude to an even greater brilliance that could have been. Of course, this is always the way with promising projects that come to an end before us fans think they should. And, beyond that, both musicians have released some incredible music since – my personal favourite is ‘Love is the Message’ by Dayes, Alfa Mist, Mansur Brown, and Rocco Palladino. Brown steals the show here.
Back to the album, ‘Strings of Light’ is my favourite song at a pinch. For the first minute it holds you in suspense, without much rhythm or direction. Enter drums, then bass, and it’s suddenly on a mission to the stars – barely held together beneath frenzied instrumentation and soloing. It reminds me of so many of my favourite live songs – those that hold you captive and silent in amazement at the skill and audacity of the musicians on stage. Something every musician hopes to be able to emulate in their own way.
Another highlight is ‘Lowrider’, where Tom Driessler’s bass playing is nothing short of sublime, Mansur Brown’s ridiculous chops on guitar shine through and Dayes’ groove is frenetic. Again, the whole album is laden with brilliant songwriting and playing. It’s hardly subtle, and at times the soloing borders on the obnoxious, but not in a detestable way. Not for me anyway.
Black Focus is a window into a project that could have been monumental. It stands the test of time on its own and will remain one of my favourites for a long time to come.
Good Lekker are a Wollongong-based indie-dance band who’ve just returned with a vibrant new single dubbed ‘Something Better’ – produced and mixed by Daniel Willington (ILUKA), and mastered by Steve Smart (Vance Joy, Tash Sultana, Dean Lewis). Take it for a spin below!