It's ironic that the U.K. duo Fila Brazillia — responsible for more than a decade of original material and remixes for artists as varied as Radiohead and Busta Rhymes — took its name from a breed of fighting dog banned in England. After all, Dave McSherry and Steve Cobby's bubbling cauldron of acid jazz, trip hop, northern soul, and Far East melodies could soothe even the most savage of beasts.
On Jump Leads, the team's eighth album of original music and first since its chill-out remix effort Another Late Night, McSherry and Cobby assemble a wholly pleasing collection of disparate sounds. Even with its wealth of influences, the record is one of the most coherent collections of electronic music in recent memory, on a par with St. Germain's breakthrough of 2000, Tourist. But while Fila Brazillia's style most readily falls into the “electronic” category, the group isn't content to put soundscapes above musicianship. Rather, the two root their compositions in live instrumentation — folksy acoustic guitar on “DNA,” a bit of Dylan-esque harmonica on “The Green Green Grass of Homegrown” — and join it with sampled loops, drum machines, and the evocative singing of Steve Edwards.
While the vocal tracks are soulful, Fila Brazillia truly shines in its instrumental capacity. “Motown Coppers” puts the constructed electronics and driving rhythms of Detroit techno in a luxury mobile and takes them for a late-night creep. “Monk's Utterance” is a synth-fueled stoner-funk anthem, while the underlying melody of “We Build Arks” could serve as the soundtrack to a boozy night at a divey cocktail lounge.
Such downtempo sounds aren't particularly new. Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, and Fila Brazillia itself have been releasing similar music for years. The initial concept behind chill music was that folks needed something gauzy to listen to when they were coming down. Now, as chill-out tunes infiltrate television commercials and thirtysomething dinner parties, Fila Brazillia stands at the ready, offering music that can help bring you down as well as lift you up.