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Ubiquity Records

Reuben Vaun Smith "Da Cuckoo YaYa" LP

Reuben Vaun Smith "Da Cuckoo YaYa" LP

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Track List

A1) Da Cuckoo YaYa

A2) Mama

A3) Oumbadougou

A4) The Waxing Gibbous Moon

B1) Mali

B2) Milano Caravan

B3) No Puedo Esperar

B4) Help Me Ride

B5) Beams

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Since he made his debut three years ago with sun-soaked first album Warm Nights, Reuben Vaun Smith has grown and evolved as an artist. His aims, objectives and musical output have changed, too – something that’s evident from the opening bars of his third full-length, Da Cuckoo Ya Ya, which also marks his first appearance on Californian institution Ubiquity Records.

Whereas the summery and colourful Warm Nights was the result of time spent teaching himself music and production, not to mention over a year of daily recording, Da Cuckoo Ya Ya was recorded in less than two months. It not only showcases Smith’s sharpened musicianship and his growing love of Eastern exoticism and wide-eyed psychedelia, but also features guest spots from friends (and fellow Leeds locals) Sakura Murakami (a guitarist who also featured on 2021’s Sounds From The Workshop album), bassist Nial Deravairere (on deliciously dubbed-out and hazy closing cut ‘Beams’) and vocalist Lucy Saddler.

While it shares some sonic similarities with its predecessors – not least a greater reliance on live instrumentation and plenty of audible nods towards Malian musical culture – Smith’s new set is his most confident and dynamic yet, with the Leeds-based producer consciously moving closer to the dancefloor whilst polishing his productions further and showcasing all he’s learned to date.

Smith sets the tone with funky and flash-fried opener ‘Da Cuckoo Ya Ya’, a superbly summer-ready statement of intent rich in flanged psych-funk guitar licks, vintage synth riffs and loose-limbed drums, before subtly doffing a cap to highlife on the peak-time-ready dancefloor celebration of ‘Mama’. By the time ‘Oumbadougou’ settles in to its stride in a wave of effects-laden guitars, polyrhythmic breakbeats, lilting violin lines and dusky early evening textures, you’ll be hooked.

The album is peppered with smile-inducing highlights, from the kaleidoscopic nu-disco/Afro-disco fusion of bona fide dancefloor jam ‘The Waxing Gibbous Moon’, the synth-sporting gorgeousness of ‘Mali’ and the explosion of keys solos, psych guitars and nods to Middle Eastern musical culture that is driving club cut ‘Milano Caravan’, to the hot-stepping, piano-sporting bounce of ‘No Puedo Esperar’ and the immersive, percussive and vividly colourful ‘Help Me Ride’. Then there’s triumphant closing cut ‘Beams’, a chugging, Afro-cosmic masterpiece of the sort more often associated with Daniele Baldelli and Marco Dionigi.

There’s no needlessly clever concept here, just ten killer cuts, expertly imagined and executed, that perfectly encapsulate the evolution and quality of Reuben Vaun Smith’s attractive trademark sound. It’s the sound of an artist who is not only comfortable in his sonic skin, but also laying the foundations of a long and fruitful musical career.