Afro Cluster – The Reach
Musical history is littered with bands that have made incredible studio albums augmented by guest musicians and endless overdubs who then struggle to reproduce the sound live. On the flipside there are an equal number of acts that have come up through the live circuit with a strong reputation for whipping crowds into a frenzy but who fail to capture the magic in a sometimes sterile studio situation.
Over the past five years Afro Cluster have established themselves as one of Wales’ finest live acts and have been biding their time before releasing their debut. To overcome the problem of capturing the sound of such a dynamic band the album was recorded live at the Paget Rooms in Penarth; previously best known for Man’s “Live at the Padget (sic) Rooms” in 1972. This was a wise move and gives the album a dynamic and fresh sound.
From the outset the album holds no punches and kicks off with the spirited “Beast of One Nation” and there is an instant recognition that you are listening to one of the best rhythm sections this side of the Severn Bridge. “Stamina” shines with its perfectly placed brass stabs and strong vocal hooks and “Cardigan” is a dry humoured tale documenting a day in the life of a gigging Welsh band which will raise a knowing smile from many. The musicianship is superb throughout and one example of many is the interplay between Laurence Collier (trumpet) and Russell Evans (trombone) on the magnificently mellow “AC Factor”. The album closes with the strident “Young Shall Grow” which displays a strong West African funk influence and features Magugu and Asha Jane.
The Reach is a winning combination of rap, hip hop, jazz and funk played by musicians who are skilled and experienced enough to know when to let loose and when to hold back. One of the best live acts in Wales has just made one of the best debut albums of the year and when gigs restart the Afro Cluster tour bus is locked and loaded and heading to a festival near you. You will not want to miss it.