Cardiff based pianist, composer and producer Dave Stapleton is a busy man. Playing piano in numerous groups of varying sizes, leading an array of bands and heading up the very successful Edition Records, the enviably talented Stapleton has now invested his time into the electronic soul dance jazz outfit Slowly Rolling Camera.
Made up of a core of Stapletons piano, Fender Rhodes (always welcome) and Hammond Organ, Deri Roberts’s trombone, saxophone and electronics, Elliot Bennetts drums, the secret weapon is Dionne Bennett; a soulful singer who yearns and emotes, and showcases a beautiful and incredible range, without ever overpowering the band or the music.
The small group however is augmented by a whole host of well-known friends. Phronesis and Edition Records house bassist Jasper Hoiby lends his deep rich tones (and a real weighty thump to the killer ‘Protagonist’), and fellow house players Mark Lockheart and Chris Montague reunite their winning sax and guitar team from the excellent Blue Touch Paper, while Stapleton drafts in a superb set of string players and trumpet man par excellence Neil Yates. The overall sound works into one seamless blend of dance grooves, nu-soul, jazz and cinematic orchestral atmospheres that are sure to garner many fans.
Comparisons abound to Portishead (the ‘trip-hop’) and The Cinematic Orchestra (the feel and vibe of the sound), and though a good pair to match SRC to, it doesn’t do the group justice. ‘Fragile Ground’ and ‘Bridge’ would be perfect for the Portishead fans, but elsewhere there is a more drum ‘n’ bass rhythm, as on the faster paced ‘Rolling Clouds’ or the epic soul of ‘Dream A Life’, with ‘River Runs Free’ even lending an almost jazz-inflected soundscape to the album.
Slowly Rolling Camera is agreat group and this is a fantastic debut recording. Cinematic and moody, yet soulful and vibrant, Stapleton contributes some beautiful music and it is vividly brought to life by a near all-star cast, while Bennett purposefully stamps her personality and one-to-watch status all over the record. One of the first must-here albums of 2014, without a doubt.