This is a review of "30:00" recorded by Suki. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2001.
30 minutes of careful mood setting music. It's rhythmically well under control, it's well played and thoughtfully arranged. There's a range of urban styles and each track takes some groove from wherever it can be found.
Suki emulate a whole scene - no particular band or stylist. But whichever angle you listen from you're going to hear bits you know - this is magpie music. Zero 7 kind of stuff: Urban Species, Merz, Arrested Development, Lamb, Moby, Massive Attack . and loads more. The same just-off-mainstream influences that affect 50 percent of what you end up hearing on daytime radio.
But play a Massive Attack or Urban Species track, and then listen to Suki? The comparison is a bit cruel. Suki have been preparing for a long time now and they've gone through a lot of band changes. But on the face of it they should have been out and about listening a bit harder to what the opposition can do. What we have here is a good memento of accomplished hobbyists. Something for friends and associates to enjoy and say "Hey, that's really good!"
The recording and mixing is good homemade. But audiences for this kind of stuff want the full deep frosted cherry gateau with massive desk, earth moving hydraulic bass, Boston Symphony string synth on eight channels and four great singers going "ooooo". That's just the way it is in R&B.
At their HiFi Club gig this month the singer was in good form. But on this CD Dave Griffin (the same person?) has some very shaky moments. He does quiet confiding semi rap reasonably well (see Massive Attack). But reaching for long or slightly higher notes and things crack up quite quickly. Suki are good musicians, and very mainstream. They stand or fall on their musical accomplishment. The band can do it: but the singing on this particular recording just isn't good enough.
There are some neat ideas. The first 44 seconds of "Low" promise huge things with heritage quality scratched-up black preacher sample. The harmonica that comes in on the same track works pretty well too. So well it gets used again later. The DJ (Simon S.) fits in naturally and he takes his own breaks confidently. The bass line on track three is a classic hook.
On balance Suki are a good band looking for a creative maniac to drive them on to something that scares them out of their slightly comfy pro-musician defences.