Joseph Malik

Though best known for his collaborations with German electronic jazz outfit Trüby Trio (“High Jazz,” “Bad Luck”), Nigerian/Scottish soul singer Joseph Malik has been recording his own music for ten years now, heading up various projects (as MF Outa’ National and Blacka’nized, among many others) before issuing a proper debut, Diverse, under his own name in 2002. The colorful packaging for his new album, Aquarius Songs, combines images of war and peace: butterflies with helicopters, children with soldiers. Similarly its songs address the state of the world, discussing social ills (“Casualties of War,” “Race Relations”) while pointing out the beauty it still holds (“Nebula,” “Mistress Moonlight”). His voice, which is paired with a cast of side musicians that includes Steven Christie on Fender Rhodes and Chris Stout on violins, sounds gentle, romantic, and commanding without becoming overbearing. The tracks, produced by long-time partner David Donnelly, vary from cosmic ballads to dance floor-ready cuts.

Aquarius Songs may well be one of the more exquisite commentaries on modern life to come out of the electronic music scene in quite some time. Halfway through the album, Malik sings on “Believe and See”: “Believe and see, I’m your second chance.” His words almost lead one to forget all those crappy house music tracks that have plagued the dance scene over the years.

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Tamara Palmer