Jamie Lidell leaves no eclectic influence untapped on his latest album Compass
:: Jamie Lidell ::
By Timothy Dwenger
In 2008, Jamie Lidell burst out of the shadows of the underground music world with the release of his critically acclaimed soul record, Jim. The album transported listeners back to the early ’70s and had many people comparing him to ‘Blue Eyed Soul’ singers like Van Morrison or Steve Winwood. While the album was a relatively big success and has allowed him to share the stage with Prince and headline European festivals over the likes of Elvis Costello, his new record, Compass, proves that it was only a small step in the musical evolution of an extremely talented artist.
As he discussed the genesis of Compass in a recent interview with The Marquee, Lidell revealed that much of the album was born out of a more personal place than any of his previous work. “As things wound down after Jim I had a lot on my mind and I had been through some crazy changes in my life. I thought it was time to talk about some of that stuff more openly in my music and to try and find out what kind of artist I wanted to be,” he explained. As these kinds of thoughts were going through his mind, and some of the songs that eventually made their way onto the album were beginning to take shape, he got a very exciting phone call from a like-minded artist.
“The whole record started to some extent with a phone call from Beck,” Lidell revealed. “He was curious if I wanted to make a record and I was thrilled that he wanted to do something with me. We’ve done a few bits and pieces here and there but nothing really concrete in the studio. That was just the right kind of motivation that I needed. I am prone to hanging around and procrastinating, so that call from Beck gave me a really good ass kick, and really just motivated me to get going.”
It wasn’t long before Lidell was on a plane to Los Angeles to sit down with Beck and discuss the project they were about to embark on. “Fiest was there when I arrived and some other freaks were there to do the Record Club thing. So there I was all of a sudden, doing Record Club and starting my own album, and all kinds of crazy stuff started to happen, it was completely unexpected and amazing. The record got off to a flying start and after that I tried to make some sense of it all. It was really like a hurricane — a whirlwind of creation. When the dust settled I realized I needed to concentrate a little bit more on making it my own, so I went back home to New York and tried to piece together the rest of the album.”
After a brief period of listening to recordings that he had worked on in L.A., Lidell realized that he was at a musical crossroads of sorts. “At the time of Multiply I was praised and, at some points, criticized for being so eclectic in my tastes. I made Jim partly as a response to that, as it was much more of a focused record and concentrated on one branch of my interests in music,” he said. “I’ll admit that it did leave me a little hungry and I was kind of missing some of the other stuff that got left out. On a simple level, Compass was a response to that, but it was more of a reflection of my life. I realized that after making Jim I had ended up at an interesting place in my career. I could have carried on by making another ‘easy,’ or ‘approachable’ retro soul record and continued down the path that I had started down. While that would have been palatable and maybe a smart financial move, in my heart, as a musician, I knew that if I did it I would really be typecast as the ‘new soul guy’ and I know that I have a lot more in me.”
For fans of Lidell’s 2005 project Multiply, Compass will signal a return to the electronic roots that spawned much of the musician’s creativity and were largely left behind on Jim. Songs like “Your Sweet Boom” and “Coma Chameleon” in particular, feature big beats, effects and processors galore. While they also weave in some well placed keyboard, bass or horn riffs, they don’t sound like they would have made the cut if an album like Jim was the intended end product.
A wildly eclectic record, at times Compass comes across as somewhat glitchy and lo-fi just seconds before sweeping into a soaring vocal line that sounds as if it could have been sampled from a Stax record in the ’70s. Lidell has crafted an album that cherry picks some of the best elements of his previous work to create a truly unique listening experience. He admits it’s a more a challenging listen than Jim, but it’s clear that this is much more satisfying to him as an artist. “It’s more wide-ranging since you’ve got 14 songs that are, to an extent, all different genres. That’s not for everyone. A lot of people just want music to wash over them and be a ‘feel good’ experience. I would never judge that because I completely understand it, but as a fan, I love to have a little challenge with my music. I like to have some sour in with my sweet,” he explained. “I am really happy that I pursued this the way I did because now I feel like I’m being truer to myself, and I’m happy with that.”
:: Jamie Lidell ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: September 7 ::
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