For those not already familiar with the work of Mark Pritchard, AKA
Troubleman, the album artwork for Time Out of Mind might suggest a
disc of campy lounge music with a '70s feel. All yellow and turquoise
linear patterns and bubble-esque writing, it might be trying to suggest a
futuristic vision, but comes off a tad kitschy. Fortunately the music,
although steeped in gentle bossa rhythms that lend themselves so well to
velour lounge songs, avoids a similar cliché and reveals Pritchard to be an impressively funky and experimental artist. He is a seasoned if under-recognized producer, having joined forces in the '90s with Tom Middleton in
the seminal electronic acts Global Communication and Jedi Knights, and also
worked under various other monikers including Harmonic 33 and Reload.
"Eclectic electronic soul" is the closest you might be able to come to
defining the overall sound. Soul and diversity are probably the two
defining characteristics of Time Out of Mind. Pritchard is something
of a musical ambassador, introducing Afro-beats to Bossa nova, while
London's broken beats rub shoulders with American techno. Troubleman hosts
the party, holding it all together with thick grooves and luxuriant soul.
The album opens with a series of warm, pleasant bossa-soul tracks such as "Have
a Good Time." But things really kick into gear with the
more uptempo tunes such as "Change Is What We Need." Gentle vocals swim
over a dominant bassline and arresting drum pattern. "Everything must
change," the vocals warn as the music looks to the future. At once nostalgic
and bravely optimistic, Pritchard demonstrates his mastery of atmospherics
with this track, one of the album's highlights.
Much of his work displays a similar blend of emotions quietly optimistic
without overtly tugging on the heartstrings. One way he achieves
this subtlety is by mixing the earthy and ethereal to create
multi-dimensional tracks. In similar fashion, the more
visceral, thumping tracks feature slightly more breathy vocalists, while
musically more delicate tracks such as "Roll On" are grounded by the more
weighty, smoky vocals of Eska.
Arguably the best tracks on the album are the ones that let their thumping
rhythms do the talking bangin' drums, smoothed out a little with some
soul but without taking the edge off too much, characterize some of the
album's best tracks. For example, "Strikehard" is a blazing Afrobeat-inspired
stomper, while "Toda Hora" has a similarly visceral groove, with Nina Miranda's
breathy vocals melting over thumping kick drums. The title track features fierce,
tech-edged broken beat.
"Time Out of Mind" is a genre-expanding work that should satisfy those with
an expansive definition of soul. At once familiar and innovative, Pritchard
finds the common threads in all his influences and ties them together in a
colorful and accessible package that warrants repeated listenings.