After delivering what many saw as the anthem of summer 2012 with the John Newman-assisted "Feel The Love," and then following it up with another slice of soulful drum 'n' bass in the form of "Not Giving In," many had Rudimental tagged as a bit of a one-trick pony. Sure they made big, bold and brassy club music, full of catchy hooks and a perfectly pitched mix of live instrumentation and electronics, but an album full of "Feel The Love" clones would have worn thin very quickly. Thankfully, for those of us whose first introduction to the Hackney-based four-piece was the downtempo delight of "Spoons," their debut album, Home, shows that they are capable of much more, melding the aforementioned drum 'n' bass with soul, R&B, house and indie-pop, amongst other things.
Rudimental, and their label Black Butter Records, made a curious decision with the marketing of Home. If you discount the additional four tracks found on the deluxe version, seven of the twelve tracks on the album were released or previewed, in one form or another, months prior to the album's arrival. This certainly served to generate a huge buzz, which thankfully translated into single sales (and album sales since), but before taking a listen I kind of felt I'd heard all they had to offer. That's why album opener "Home" came as a bit of a surprise, with its smoky, almost bluesy feel, it sounds like nothing else they had released so far, but yet still sounded unmistakeably like Rudimental. Not wanting to rock the boat too much, "Feel The Love" comes next, providing a welcome handle for those who were wanting and expecting d 'n' b-Rudimental to grasp onto. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last nine months, you will have heard and formed your own opinion on "Feel The Love," but for me, while it still sounds as good as it did last summer, it is one of my least favorite tracks in the context of the full album.
Equally "big"-sounding singles, "Not Giving In" and "Waiting All Night" provide the album's focal points, and the two appearances from Emeli Sandé on the overly-emoted "More Than Anything" and the infinitely more attractive, gospel-tinged "Free," will surely carry the album's single successes into the second half of 2013. However, it's the album's more subtle moments (relatively speaking) that prove to be the real highlights. We have already heard, and mentioned, the '90's-inspired deep house of "Spoons," which still sounds as good as it did the first time I heard it, and the pairing of MNEK and Sinead Harnett on the garage-inflected, feel-good "Baby," is verging on musical perfection, for me at least.
Rudimental show they aren't aimed squarely at the dance floor either, with two big ballads anchoring the album's mid-point. The Becky Hill-voiced "Powerless" has shades of Adele, especially on the opening lines, but Rudimental's signature skittish d 'n' b rhythms give the chorus that extra kick it needs to not sound like it's aimed at an adult contemporary audience. For me, apart from Rudimental themselves, it's Sinead Harnett who proves the biggest revelation on Home, giving a powerful turn on "Baby" but completely owning the darkly brooding "Hide." Just edging "Baby" as my favorite track on the album, "Hide" is the perfect marriage of '90's R&B and Rudimental's signature sounds, giving Sinead the perfect platform to display her sinuous, slinky vocals. The addition of those horns when the chorus kicks in are just the icing on the tastiest of cakes.
With fellow Brits Disclosure and AlunaGeorge set to release albums later in 2013, Rudimental have set the bar extremely high for their contemporaries, hitting #1 on the UK Album Chart and showcasing that you can have mainstream success and keep the fanbase you built while considered an "underground secret." Currently on the first leg of a sold out UK tour before they hit the festival circuit in the summer and then round two of the tour in the autumn, it looks like 2013 may go down as Rudimental's year and, on the strength of Home, it's well deserved.
Rudimental Home [Amazon]