Amaeba Amaeba

So-called "chill out” music always runs the risk of becoming the soundtrack to an elevator-sized creative ghetto, but then perhaps the fact that it’s always a hair away from sucking is what makes it work so well — when it does work. This debut album from the pan-globally living collective Ameaba is comparable in sound to, say, Zero 7, early Massive Attack or Portishead, in the keyboard-heavy sound, but, luckily also in quality. The vocals here — whether live or sampled — are what make this record shine. On opener "Stay As You Are,” Andrew Thompson sounds like Seal, in a good way, and there’s something really "Ray Charles” about the way Philipp Conrad croons on "Ride With Me” and "Won’t Be This,” while the female vocals sampled on "Where You Are” are picture-perfect. And whoever’s idea it was to splash slide guitar all over the place is some kind of genius. The only misstep is the fact that "Clear and Loud” veers dangerously close to being a Simply Red b-side. Shudder. It should be overlooked, though, because this is how a soul album should sound in 2006. (Twentyseven)