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Mansur Brown
Shiroi Michael Appouh , December 13th, 2018 11:48

A rebellious release from the guitar-playing prodigy

Mansur Brown’s Shiroi is an arrival, both for him and the UK’s Jazz scene. The latest in a string of excellent UK releases for 2018 (Kamaal Williams - The Return; the Brownswood Recordings compilation We Out Here; Sons of Kemet - Your Queen Is A Reptile) Shiroi is the first release from Kamaal Williams’ Black Focus Records. The first minute of its opening track ‘The Beginning’ echoes and cries out with whining guitar chords; it almost feels like labour, prenatal somehow, before giving birth to a funky refrain bringing the bassline heavy track to a brisker pace.

Mansur Brown has flair. He regularly rips into supercharged solos throughout the project, and each time he goes into one, the track breaks and revs up, only slowing down before he goes into another onslaught. Sometimes (on ‘God Willing’, for example) it’s riveting, like preparing for a massive hit of euphoric force atop a rollercoaster; other times Brown’s audacious solo skills can overpower the track (such as on ‘Shiroi’).

‘Straight To The Point’ swaps out the solos for something that rides much smoother; on ‘Mashita’, Brown creates a lullaby out of a sombre guitar melody and the comforting sounds of rainfall. ‘Flip Up’ has more of Brown’s dextrous chords, but what stands out is the ghostly loop that grounds its frantic drum-and-bass inspired nature. Meditative and choral, it provides some depth to a track that can get too flashy in the foreground.

Brown never gets complacent on this record; Shiroi is a testament to variety. Just before the album’s halfway point, his hip hop influence reveals itself on ‘Back South’, rebelling against the rest of this jazz fusion record with a head-bopping energy that could have come from Madlib or Pete Rock. By the time we reach final song ‘Hands Tied’, this album has almost morphed into something you could hear in a club or on the trendiest Spotify playlist, as the drumline mimics the 808s that have taken hold of rap and R&B.