Troubleman – Time Out Of Mind

Hello Bossa

Writing about Mark Pritchard is kind of a challenge. If I write too much about who he is and what he did before he put on the Troubleman hat some people will roll their eyes thinking goodness everyone knows Pritchard why go through all of that again. But if I don’t do that everyone else will probably wonder who the hell I am writing about.

Pritchard is one of those guys who spend all of their time on music, often working on several projects simultaneously, and probably close to no time making sure that people know who he is. In spite of the fact that he is one of the most innovative producers out there and being highly regarded for his work with Tom Middleton as Jedi Knights and Global Communication Mark Pritchard is not necessarily what you call a famous man. And it seems obvious that he couldn’t care less.

Following his breakup with Middleton (who loves to be on the move and DJ whenever he can, something that Pritchard really isn’t interested in) he also moved away from the deep end of the House spectrum and began to dive into more organic grooves, Latin rhythms, the options that Bossa has for the discerning dance floor. Enter Troubleman, the guy that suddenly sounds as if he had been born and raised in Brazil and finally decided to let it all out.

Looking at the timeline of his releases this must have kicked off somewhere around 2000 when he remixed Azymuth’s “Carambola” and turned it into a swirling and uncompromising ten minute broken beat sensation, probably blowing the minds of the folks at the Far Out label who were smart enough to let Pritchard do more for them. A year later his first 12″ as Troubleman was out, “Messenger/The Essence”, picking up where that massive remix had left off.

“Time Out Of Mind” partly collected some of the 12″es that had been released during the first four years of the new Millennium, more or less all of them uptempo broken beat Bossa that was clearly aimed at the dance floor. What makes this album really interesting is that the other parts that were produced it album mostly took a different path, adding R&B and Latin flavored Downtempo to the mix, and even more importantly bringing in some supremely talented vocalists.

This may not necessarily lead to a really coherent and conceptually balanced album, but who cares if almost every song on it is a winner. As Troubleman Pritchard really doesn’t hold back on anything, turning from super sweet songs to outrageously bursting and burning beats, from nice and loungy coolness to seductive soulful songs – it’s impressive in how many ways he hits the sweet spot on this album.

So let’s slide on over to the dance floor and “Have A Good Time” – it’s the ideal opener, establishing the lively speed, the animated broken beats, its simple Rhodes joys and bouncing bass that are at the heart of the Troubleman sound. Pritchard keeps it basic on this one, delivering an extended intro to get into the mood. No one sweating on the dance floor yet, but we feel that this might turn into good fun as soon as the DJ turns up the heat.

Which he does on the title track. It only takes a few seconds to understand that this is not a track that tries to please at all costs. It’s got plenty of speed and its broken beats are always on the verge of falling all over themselves. If it weren’t so damn funky you might find it hectic – but it’s one of those tracks that doesn’t even ask or care. Pritchard whips it forward, doesn’t look back and I can’t help applauding the audacity of this rhythmic assault. You know these really wild tracks that you always hope you have handy when the crowd is sweating their pants off and still hasn’t had enough? This might just be one of them.

If that’s too audacious for you, “Toda Hora” might do the trick as well. Closer to midtempo, wonderfully tricky drums that are Latin in a slightly unorthodox way, and pretty well accompanied by the ever charming Nina Miranda. It’s fascinating how Pritchard is able to keep the same mix of ingredients and still move from slightly mad to playfully upbeat. Effortlessly.

One of the few downsides of this vinyl edition of the album is that it doesn’t contain all of the tracks that are featured on the CD and the digital release. Three tracks are not included: “Zap”, “Strikehard” and “Change Is What We Need (Progress)”. The omission of the first one is not really a huge tragedy and “Strikehard” didn’t necessarily strike hard as a 12″ before, but “Change Is What We Need (Progress)” is somewhat essential to this album with its superbly rolling beats and catchy vocals. You’ll just have to get the 12″ as well.

Time for a drink at the bar – and the “Righteous Path” will take us there. This is where our friend Troubleman is starting to add dimension to the album, clearly aiming for the lounge with a straight and solid jazzy Hip Hop beat, vibraphone and a nice warm bass, and then widening the room to add a choir and flutes – you better order something really classy at the bar. I’d go for a Pisco Sour.

Almost forgot: this track has a little prelude that features none other than Eska Mtungwazi who also contributes “Roll On”, one of the highlights of the album. Back then Eska was still relatively unknown and this elegant piece of modern R&B will sure have helped to gain the attention of more artists and producers. And no, she didn’t just supply the vocals, she wrote that thing two. Very nice.

Another guest is dropping by to deliver yet another facet to “Time Out Of Mind”: Steve Spacek. He croons his way through “Without You”, slightly distorted strings and plenty of promises of love and affection included. Eska and Spacek are warm and unexpected surprises among a collection of latin flavored dance tracks, but as smooth and well produced as these soulful gems are they simply add to the eclectic class of this album. No wonder Gilles Peterson said that this was “one of THE albums of the year”.

To top it all off Pritchard keeps the deeply loungy feel and returns back to Latin styles when Nina Miranda gives us “Paz” (like Eska and Spacek she is both supplying her vocals and her song writing skills). This is almost too sweet to be true. Sultry, elegant and innocent all at once, dreamy and timeless – I must have played this song at the bar at least a thousand times and it always helped to make people understand that they picked the right place to have a glass of wine with their loved ones.

By the time the album closes with the Thievery-esque “Lonely Girl” it’s clear that Mark Pritchard must have had the really good time the opening track of the album suggested. At the same time we know today that this first album didn’t get much of a follow-up – a collection of early work including his magic “Carambola” remix. It looks like the man decided some fine day that it was time to stop creating groups or personas and find out who Mark Pritchard really is, as a musician.

That won’t keep me from spinning plenty of tracks from this album whenever I play at the bar. This is great music. Toda Hora.

Release for review:

Buy the digital version of the album on Bandcamp: Click
Buy the vinyl edition on Discogs: Click

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