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The meteoric rise of XAMVOLO continues unabated, with the release of his new concept EP, A Damn Fine Spectacle, paving the way for a companion album later in the year. Here, he gives us a glimpse at some records that inspired his neo-noir world.

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Jai Paul

Jasmine

XL

I’ve always connected with the magic behind the production on this record. JAI PAUL’s vocal presentation is telling of the production-first approach to music I also choose to adopt; he knows he doesn’t need to have his vocals sit high up in the mix for the record to work, they just need to play a part. If anything, I reckon this was at the back of my mind while I was arranging the vocals on my track Cathedrals. The gated reverb on the vocals also definitely comes

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Janelle Monáe

Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase)

Bad Boy Records

I heard The ArchAndroid – JANELLE MONÁE’s first full-length – first, but worked my way back to this EP next. It really sets the scene for the world she was trying to build – though the messaging was a lot more overt, it was definitely the project that sold me on her overall concept. Examples like this were part of what made it feel necessary to do this EP before a wider project – it sets up a world in a concise way, with room to dive deeper as and when. Her work is so vivid and this was the kindest introduction to such a vast idea.

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Q-Tip

Amplified

Arista Records

I can’t think of any other album more consistently hitting ‘the vibe’. I heard a few singles from this growing up, before I was creating music of my own – and I can confidently say this sound shaped the core of my musical taste. I recently found that Let’s Ride samples a Joe Pass cover of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps – putting two and two together, everything I do makes sense now. Lose Love and the flip in Dark Teeth from my EP are dipped in the same flavour sauce; it can’t be escaped.

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Bilal

1st Born Second

Interscope

Probably my favourite neo-soul album, and probably in my top five albums of all time. BILAL is definitely one of my main vocal influences. He doesn’t need to keep things sweet – he convinced me there weren’t any rules with when it came to vocal delivery. It’s full of complex musicality hidden behind bold and direct production – it just seems to work. I’ve always found a groove is strongest just before it falls apart, and this (like Q-Tip’s Amplified) pushes that philosophy to the limit all the way through. Dilla was involved in both projects – I’ve always liked his work with other artists.

 

A Damn Fine Spectacle is out now via Decca.

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