Diverse influences make for a heady blend on lesbian-fronted dance duo’s latest
Dark, sensual and irresistibly groovy, international trip-hoppers Slowtrainsoul are a study in contrasts. Made up of DJ-producer Morten Varano and vocalist Lady Z (born Michelle Nichol), the duo comprise a straight white man and a queer black woman; a Brit with roots in the island of Trinidad (Lady Z), and a Dane with a love for dance music (Varano).
Emerging in 2004 with their debut album “Illegal Cargo,” Slowtrainsoul proved remarkably diverse, with songs drawing from jazz and soul to Caribbean beats and disco rhythms. Released in the tail end of 2006, their follow-up “Santimanitay” proves equally multi-faceted, running a gamut from dense electro-pop to jazzy reggae.
“Santimanitay” opens with the straight-up trip-hop track “Mississippi Freestylin’.” Singing in a rich alto, Z delivers her slippery half-rapped vocals against spare hip-hop beats and looped jazz samples. Like much of the best material on “Santimanitay,” the mid-tempo track just feels cool soulful while not necessarily raising your pulse.
Hitting the high points of “Santimanitay,” you’ll find Slowtrainsoul performing nearly every one of their myriad sounds. “Splinter” and “I Want You To Love Me” are flawless club anthems, dramatic and somewhat dark, but with a sexy, smoky vibe.
Pulsating drums and acoustic guitar give “Inferno” an exotic groove that almost borders on flamenco. And for the Trinidadian-inspired “Las Lap” the pair combines saxophone, bongos and steel drums for a dance track reminiscent of the current crop of Brazilian baile funk.
Despite consisting of everything from relaxed jazz to upbeat vocal tracks, “Santimanitay” holds together remarkably well. This is no doubt thanks to Lady Z’s larger-than-life vocal presence, which proves the one constant in this ever-shifting sonic palette. Although Slowtrainsoul have yet to earn a widespread following, “Santimanitay” finds them well deserving of any accolades you could pile upon them.
Albums this polished and this immediately appealing don’t come around very often. One listen to “Santimanitay,” and you’ll find it regularly haunting your ear.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, January 5, 2007.