LTJ Bukem Journey Inwards

Amidst a montage of record covers from Roy Ayers and Curtis Mayfield, is a snap of LTJ Bukem with his arm around '70s soul-jazz legend Lonnie Liston Smith. It hints of Smith's importance as a guru, and the ever-present washes of lush, ambient sound throughout this double disc, solo debut affirms Bukem's respect as his first disciple. For anyone who's followed Bukem's career as a pioneering DJ figure in mid-'90s intelligent drum & bass, through to his efforts to keep the atmospheric vibes alive on the Logical Progressions and Earth compilation series, this grand reverence for the legendary keyboardist shouldn't come as a surprise. But whereas previous recordings tried to re-think Smith's cosmic grooves into the future, Bukem's Journey Inwards simply brings it back to the soul. Admittedly, he doesn't reach the heights of Smith's "Expansions," but as suggested in titles like "Close to the Source" and "Undress Your Mind," there's a sense of sonic introspection that he shares with his elder, yet with a sense of originality as well. Bukem's tracks are like soundscapes rather than songs, soothing the listener against hi-end break-beat licks, while occasionally coasting down through low-funk tempos. With live flutes, saxophones and even cellos, he keeps the production colourful and the rhythms crisp, emphasising the sensuality of his sounds at all times in the mix. The brilliance of Journey Inwards is also that for all of its etherealness, it never settles into a kind of sonic wallpaper. Nor does it sicken the listener with its idealistic aesthetics of sound, despite potentially new age-y titles like "Inner Guidance," "Close To The Source" and "Our World." Instead, Journey Inwards is a simple but sophisticated expression of warmth, optimistic, and still danceable, sensibilities. (Kinetic)