We the Generation Rudimental Major Toms/Asylum
Since emerging in 2012 with the British charttopping Feel the Love, featuring John Newman, London quartet Rudimental has championed a soulful brand of vocal, horninfected electronica. Similar to how Disclosure’s 2013 debut Settle was lauded for its fresh take on house and garage, Rudimental’s debut album of the same year, Home, became largely synonymous with its high-tempo drum and bass tunes, despite the album being a diverse musical odyssey that included nods to hip hop, house, pop, soul and R & B. On We the Generation, Piers Agget, Amir Amor, Kesi Dryden and Leon Rolle maintain their love affair with drum and bass, but it’s the tunes that explore other musical territory — from reggae to dub, house to jazz to pop — that often shine brighter and better demonstrate the Hackney four’s musical versatility. This is an accomplished sophomore album marked by emotive, musical and danceable songs of varying tempos, where the electronic emphasis is balanced through lush keys, horns, guitar and other instrumentation. Will Heard’s numerous performances, including his soaring vocal on energetic opener I Will for Love, the first of many tracks to benefit from Rudimental’s signature horn section, are standouts and indicative of the soulful undercurrent running strongly throughout. They mirror those album-shaping contributions of Newman and MNEK on Home, the latter of whom appears here on the laidback house groove Common Emotion. With Anne Marie on the house bumper Rumour Mill, Heard is in full flight while speaking out against the cheap thrills posed by lies and gossip. Alongside Home collaborator Sinead Harnett on the beautiful, chugging Treading on Water, meanwhile, his vocal range overshadows the crispy beats and nearly the dazzling mid-track guitar solo. Never Let You Go, with its thumping drum and bass beat, guitar licks and Foy Vance’s searching vocal, is lead single for a reason, while Bloodstream features the pipes of Ed Sheeran, in what is a thumping rework of the original included on the redhead’s worldbeating album X. Sheeran features again on the anthemic Lay It All on Me, which, with its building keys, acoustic elements and pop vocal hook, seems destined for big things. Love Ain’t Just a Word begins on a horninspired reggae tip before graduating to familiar drum and bass territory, a perfect base for Anne Marie to back-and-forth with Dizzee Rascal, who delivers a typically moody, in-your-face vocal.
The late Bobby Womack features on New Day, a bluesy number that, among the big beats and guitar, prioritises the soul legend’s raspy voice, in what is one of his final recorded vocal performances. System ends proceedings in a flurry of horns, vocal samples and dubbed-out beats led by Max Romeo, Earl 16 & Spee, in what is part Thievery Corporation, part Groove Armada’s Superstylin’.