Watch Me Dance [Agitated by Ross Orton & Pipes]

by: Toddla T

Self-described as having "a bit of the soul from Soul II Soul's Club Classics and a bit of the leftfield from Leftfield's Leftism," Sheffield DJ/producer Thomas Bell, aka Toddla T, is already setting himself up for quite the fall with such lofty comparisons for his sophomore outing, Watch Me Dance. While his follow-up to 2009's Skanky Skanky doesn't quite reach the heights of its two illustrious influences, it's a consistently inventive record that fills the genre-hopping dance void left by Basement Jaxx's recent foray into film soundtracks and Groove Armada's self-imposed hiatus. Recorded in Kingston, there's still plenty of the Jamaican influences that dominated its predecessor, such as the wobbly basslines and bouncy synth-led dancehall of "Badman Flu" and "Streets So Warm," and "Fly," a sun-soaked slice of one-drop reggae featuring a revitalized Ms. Dynamite, who also appears on the equally laid-back fusion of jazzy piano chords and authentic riddims of "How Beautiful It Would Be." But elsewhere, the Radio 1 In New DJs We Trust host utilizes his impressive roll call of guest vocalists to pursue a more U.K.-centric underground sound, whether it's Mercury Music Prize nominee Terri Walker on the smooth soul-meets-drum‘n'bass of "Do It Your Way," Brit Award-winning Shola Ama on the old-skool breakbeats and Italo house riffs of "Take It Back," or grime MC Maxsta, who showcases his quickfire skills on the curious blend of harsh beats, warped bass, and Gregorian chants on "Cruise Control." Surprisingly, two of the more high-profile contributions don't gel quite as well, as Roisin Murphy's minimal techno R&B number "Cherry Picking" is strangely subdued, while Roots Manuva's title track is a derivative attempt at electro-funk. But overall, Watch Me Dance is a triumphant speaker-blasting party record that cements Toddla T's reputation as the U.K.'s bass wonderkid. ~ Jon O'Brien

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