Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on July 21, 2008
Review by Jesse Mann, BPM Magazine
Eric Lau is a young beat maker with musical roots firmly planted in the UK and his native China. New Territories, his debut album, bridges that gap through the realm of soulful hip-hop and newjack soul. At times echoing labelmates Platinum Pied Pipers and the slower tempos of the West London breakbeat scene, it’s also probably what it would sound like if the late, great J Dilla decided to make an album of love songs.
The beats are minimal and always have that off-kilter swing. Lau manages to strike a sweet spot right between that sound and more accessible pop rhythms: It’s sophisticated enough for the London clubs while still maintaining a universal appeal. Gorgeous soul chords, gentle keys and an abundance of flutes fill out just about every track, along with a roster of singers that put a sweet cherry on top of these already beautiful productions. At times the flutes echo Lau’s Chinese roots, along with some intriguing chord progressions that further give this project a unique flavor. “I Don’t Do It To” opens the album as songstress vocals bounce on top of the beats with an especially rhythmic sensibility. “Time Will Tell” drops the tempo even further, and those sublime flutes shine as brightly as the vocals.
The ’70s jazz funk of greats like Roy Ayers can also be heard throughout much of the album, meeting the futuristic soul elements halfway. Never creeping above the speed of sexy soul, these tunes would be perfect for a late night, couple-filled dancefloor. All the open space in each track creates a tension that leads you to savor each warm bass hit, each cymbal crash and each stroke of the piano keys. Although Lau goes for a very distinct sound and sticks to it over the course of the entire album, New Territories still seems to end too soon.