“Because nothing is distorted.”
Back in 2013, Richard Russell had it all. Head of XL Recordings, the country’s coolest and (one of the) most successful label. Producer of Gil Scott Heron and Bobby Womack. Could it get much better?
But then, things changed. Russell was struck down with auto-immune disease, Guillain Barre syndrome. Whilst hospitalised, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow sent him a pocket piano, ostensibly to keep his mind and his fingers occupied.
And out of those events, this album was born. When he had recovered, Russell dug out his Rolodex and called up some friends. Obviously, given his line of work, he had a few contacts and before long he was joined in the studio by such luminaries as Damon Albarn, Brian Eno, Warren Ellis and Kamasi Washington. But the stars of the show on this collection are Sampha (surely the decade’s finest voice) , and Afro-French-Cuban twins, Ibeyi. More of them later.
Before that, I have to mention how cohesive a collection of songs this is. Despite the sheer number and weight of collaborators, it sounds completely seamless. It doesn’t feel like a compilation, as projects like this often do. Russell does a superb job in ensuring that every artist sticks to the script.
I mentioned Sampha’s vocal qualities already. It’s worth buying the album for his performance on Close But Not Quite alone. And Russell deserves special praise for his work here as he mixes Sampha’s astonishing vocal with that of the sampled voice of Curtis Mayfield. It sounds like they are sharing the mike in the studio together. Gorgeous.
But the highlight for me is undoubtedly Cane, featuring the vocals of Ibeyi. Previously, I wasn’t familiar with the Paris-based twins and I’m grateful to this album for effectively introducing me to their work. Check it out.
In summary, Everything is Recorded is a worthy addition to our list. There have been few albums over the decade that are so brilliantly produced. We should all be grateful for Geoff Barrow’s thoughtfulness.