To say that expectations were running high for ‘Movements’ is an understatement. Booka Shade singles ‘Body Language’ and ‘Mandarine Girl’ dominated dancefloors in 2005, the year the UK press went gaga over Booka Shade’s label Get Physical. Recent album taster ‘Night Falls’ only increased the anticipation, and the latest single ‘In White Rooms’ is tearing up your local club even as you read this.
Over twelve tracks (nine on the vinyl), the album moves through a number of “movements”, from the dub-tinged ‘Body Language’ to the robotic vocals on ‘Wasting Time’, from the bleeped up funkiness of ‘The Birds and the Beats (at the Window)’ to the enormous synths of ‘Darko’. The album delights in these shifts: twisting, changing, and sliding from one moment to the next. Electrohouse? Please. We’re far beyond labels here (thank God).
Even within the tracks themselves there are twists and turns that tease and excite, drawing you further in, eagerly anticipating their next movement: the melancholic organ intro to ‘Paper Moon’ suddenly turns into something fun and funky, the groove of ‘The Birds and the Beats (at the Window)’ gives way to a gorgeous piano melody that winds the track down over almost two minutes.
But what is most compelling is the one-two punch that almost all Booka Shade tracks deliver: melody and basslines. If Booka Shade know anything, it’s how to craft melodies filled with more hooks than a fishing kit. And if the hooks don’t catch you, the basslines will. ‘Darko’ sums it up: all driving bassline, rushing snares, and an enormous and spooky synth melody that opens all the way up. A slightly reworked ‘Mandarine Girl’ and the latest single ‘In White Rooms’ testify to the power of Booka Shade’s way with melody and bass: if a DJ can’t get a crowd moving with these tracks, their decks and records should be revoked.
What impresses about ‘Movements’, however, is how these different moments and movements fit together into a larger whole. From the impeccable opener ‘Night Falls’ with its gently chirping crickets in the twilight to the melancholic yet euphoric chimes of closing track ‘Lost High’ (faintly reminiscent of M83), the tracks compliment each other perfectly, locking together to form a single picture. Listen to how the beautiful piano melody that rounds off ‘The Birds and the Beats’ surges into the synths of ‘Darko’ – the tracks stand together, smiling at each other’s difference, yet holding hands.
‘Movements’ is a wonderfully rounded package, eminently suitable for home listening yet loaded with tracks that are begging to be played out at the club. To have achieved both ends is an incredible feat, and in doing so Booka Shade have not only released one of the best albums of 2006, they may very well have crafted a classic.