Roots Manuva: 4everevolution

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Roots Manuva
4everevolution
(Big Dada Records)

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What fascinates me about 4everevolution are the drums. Mike Skinner from The Streets has said that before even thinking about melodies or arrangements, he always starts a beat with the drums. They have to sound, to feel good before he can aggregate the track. Roots Manuva, who, like Skinner, burst out on the UK scene with a debut album programmed in the isolation of his own home thus defining a wholly idiosyncratic style, seems to have approached his newest album in the same way. While 4everevolution can’t quite decide between preachy, angst-filled spoken word, or straight-up party tunes, the drums are always on point.

We have the acoustic sounding percussions of tracks like “First Growth” or “The Throes of It,” the syncopated head-bangers of “Wah’ Mek?”or “Takes Time,” the Dr. Dre-like bass laden drums of “Here We Go Again” and “Crow Bars” (that sounds like something that could have emanated from the Shady Records camp circa 2005) and the almost Dirty South-sounding snare-heavy programmings of “Revelation.”

I got stuck on the subway not long ago and had to make numerous transfers during the packed rush hour to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan while I was listening to 4everevolution. As I was distracted quite a bit, I couldn’t really focus on the lyrics. But the drums, the atmosphere of the beats stood out. I listened to the album again on a calm bus ride from Boston to New York and while I could now fully appreciate the depth and wisdom of Manuva’s raps, I was still focused on the beats and captivated by the drum patterns.

The album is a little unfocused at times and some of the electronic compositions don’t feel as novel or intricate as on previous Roots Manuva offerings. But it’s a hypnotic album, a dense work always propelled by Manuva’s commanding baritone – and those sweet, sweet drums that for whatever reason just stuck in my mind.

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