Jamie Lidell’s music has typically balanced impressive software-programming nous with a keen ear for retro soul revivalism. It’s far from an obvious combination, and has earned him a position alongside the likes of Clark and Squarepusher as one of Warp Records’ most distinctive voices. Love him or hate him, Lidell’s singular approach has enabled him to weather the endlessly mutating fad-scape of electronic music for over a decade - no mean feat in a world where few manage to survive beyond their fifteen minutes of fame.
Still, it’s never easy for the auteur. Isolated from a scene or overarching creative dialogue, it’s all too common for such artists to trail listlessly behind the zeitgeist, or else steadily disappear into their own aesthetic bubble. Tasters of Lidell’s self-titled fifth LP have, so far, been mixed. ‘What A Shame’ felt like a belated stab at the dubstep template, while ‘Why Ya Why’ was stumbling, steroidal Rhythm and Blues, playing New Orleans brass off against a glossy hip-hop chassis - pleasing enough, but nothing new from the singer-producer.
So, while nobody’s disputing Lidell’s knack for crafting an arresting hybrid, ‘You Naked’, in its tighter focus and finely tuned pop sensibility, comes as something of a relief. This is contemporary RnB with big ambitions, though its luscious synthetic arrangement owes a debt to the machine-pop template laid out in 80s New Jack Swing. As if confirming the influence, the video sees Lidell ditch the nostalgised 70s he’s known for in favour of a 1980s vision of the 21st century, a hyper-unreal world of sleek dayglo geometries.
Jamie Lidell is due for release through Warp Records on February 18.