At the top of Duval Timothy’s homepage it states “I’m a multidisciplinary artist. I live and work between London (UK) and Freetown (SL)“. That’s a pretty minimalist summation and Timothy’s brilliant 2020 release, Help, is equally spartan. Nothing superfluous.
Did I say minimalism? Much of the second half of this album is minimalism personified. Just Timothy and a piano, playing beautifully composed short pieces that will enchant you. In particular, Ice is a track that will stick in your mind, replaying over and over again long after you have listened to it.
Before that, Help can be compared in many ways to Jeff Parker’s superb 2020 release, Suite For Max Brown. On the surface, it’s laid back and mellow, with jazz at the core. Like Parker, Timothy veers into electronica, soul and hip-hop as he meanders along this dreamy pathway. It’s an album that you sink into.
Opening track, Next Tomorrow, is a marvellous introduction. Reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman with its treated, electronic vocal chanting ah, ah, ah over a glacial electronic canvas. The gorgeous soul of Fall Again is utterly sublime whilst Look features a spoken word section from an artist. The narrative takes place on top of a hypnotically repeating piano line whilst car horns sound in the background. Close your eyes and you are transported to an apartment overlooking any big city on the hottest night of the year. It feels sultry and overpowering and dreamy.
But the absolute highlight has to be the astonishing Slave, which is one my favourite tracks of the year from any artist. A mournful piano plays a simple, sparse line. On top, harmonic voices chant the word ‘slave’ whilst their pitch is electronically undulating all over the place. The chaos of the voice conflicts with the elegance of the music. Then comes the spoken word, imploring record companies to “partner with me, but don’t own me”. It’s an eloquent yet powerful protest against the industry and whilst it’s not as high profile as daubing the word ‘slave’ on your face, it is equally impactful.
Help doesn’t feel like the product of a British artist. It feels much more like a New York album, if that makes sense. Whatever, it’s an amazing body of work and I implore anyone reading this to check it out.