Sphyr A Poem For M

A Poem For M features spoken word reminiscent of the Last Poets, but with the dense rhythmic momentum of hip-hop set to adept acoustic instrumentation. Revolving around the passionate and intricate verbal constructions of Derek Stephens, Sphyr features Ohad Benchetrit (on acoustic guitar) and David Mitchell (on understated drums), both of Do Make Say Think fame, and, believe it or not, accordion and keyboards by Milos Popovic. Now anyone who sees this kind of line-up would immediately think this a recipe for un-coolness, but quite the contrary, this is the freshest, hippest, most original take on the culture I have encountered since hip-hop jazz came into vogue. Opening with beautiful classical guitar notes that introduce this urban minstrel, Stephens is backed by the accordion, flute and keyboards, with the rhythm maintained by the vocalist, not the drums, which merely accentuates the words on a few tracks. Hip-hop is one of the oldest legacies of mankind: storytelling to a beat or rhythm. In the last 30 years the style has grown more specific and perhaps even stale, at times. Sphyr brings something fresh and unique to an old medium. (Independent)