Amalia Art Slave

For more than a decade, Amalia Townsend has pushed her vocal talents into bold new directions. On Art Slave, she comes up with the best showcase yet for her incredible talent. Chaka Khan is the obvious reference point, which is a good thing 'cause Chaka also possessed unusual phrasing and a willingness to play with her voice. Music-wise, you could call the production by Opolopo synth-funk, but Art Slave is a full-blooded embracing of '80s R&B production, not a series of ironic references. "Freeze That" wouldn't sound out of place on Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation, whereas the synth stabs of "Luxurious" are guaranteed to draw blood. These grooves don't just slam, but wiggle, and Amalia's often heavily harmonized voice makes sure that there's a focus to the innumerable details of every track. As the album goes on, it becomes more spacious, jazzier and experimental, with "Psychoanalyze" and "Zebra Butt-A-Fly" being my favourite moments, featuring slower beats and more dub-wise production. Remixes by At Jazz, AD Bourke and Son of Kick add an interesting postscript to a focused, funky album. (Tokyo Dawn)