#2163 – D-Influence – Prayer 4 Unity
(CD, 1995) (Discogs tracklisting)
It’s my 54th birthday, which means that age-wise, I am now equidistant from the millennium and my seventieth birthday. Why must I do these appalling sums in my head?
This morning, K gave me my first of three presents: a subscription to Wax & Stamp, who will be mailing me a surprise vinyl album and 12-inch single every month for the next year, chosen by the two-man team and a guest curator. Looking at their previous shipments, I find that their choices are pleasingly cross-genre, and largely unknown to me; there are only three or four names that I even recognise. This morning’s batch comprised a 10-inch EP from Tuff Love – Glaswegian C86/dreampop janglers – and Mo Kolours, a UK hip hop/soul/jazz cut-up merchant whose approach equates to Flying Lotus, Knxwledge, and the whole Los Angeles new school. Before hitting the randomise button, I played and enjoyed both.
All of this excitement left me in quite the wrong headspace for D-Influence’s mid-Nineties acid jazz smoothness. I bought a lot of acid jazz back then, and am rarely minded to return to it. To my 2015 ears, it sounds politely constrained by its boundaries, seemingly striving to perfect a specific type of sound at the expense of individuality and risk.
And so, while the 56-minute album tootled blandly along, I kept myself amused by playing Killer Sudoku on the iPad, almost completing the Guardian quick crossword, and keeping abreast of birthday greetings on social media. It was background music then, and it’s background music now. There was little to latch onto; everything slid by in a tasteful wash. It sounded exactly like the Brand New Heavies. It reminded me of untucked, neatly pressed, mono-colour Ralph Lauren shirts. The first four tracks sounded familiar, the rest not at all. That was probably as long as my attention span lasted in 1995, too.
When track 10 turned out to be a sixteen-second interlude, sourced from a Brazilian radio show, I heaved a sigh of relief: just two more to go. It led into the only track that I could imagine playing again: “Afrojam”, an instrumental workout of significantly heightened liveliness and spirit, augmented by harmonica and Brazilian percussion. Gilles Peterson probably liked it.
D-Influence once backed Bjork on Later, in a reworking of “Aeroplane” from her debut album. It remains their most interesting moment. Let’s remember them that way.