Stasis is something alien to Beady Belle. Having released an enviable series of albums, each of which would a perfectly adequate template for a separate career, with "Cricklewood Broadway" they have taken a whole new path.
Based upon the novel "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith, a critically acclaimed novel dealing with London-based immigrants struggling with assimilation into the dominant culture of their new home, while attempting to preserve their own culture, Beady Belle have created a musical framework that dispenses with the lush country-tinged smooth jazz arrangements found on albums such as "Belvedere" and "At Welding Bridge" and instead embraces a kind of minimalist soul and funk. Of course, the melodies and chord progressions, the basic musical nuts and bolts, are all unmistakeably "Beady Belle", but the sound choices are entirely new.
Beate S. Lech's voice sits high in the mix, while the instrumentation never exceeds the necessary. Infectiously funky synth basslines underpin laidback chord progressions ("Saved"; "So Far So Good"); Flashes of reggae hang out with elements from distinctly cooler climates ("Party-Pooper"; "Poppy Burt-Jones"); Balladry merges with urban sensibilities ("Faith"; "Every Moment"; "Half-truth"); echoes of Fleetwood Mac reverberate through allies of acid jazz ("Circlet"); an essence of Prince wafts past a classic RnB record store ("Song for Irie"); Latino rhythms storm through a middle eastern market towards a darkened nightclub ("My Name On The World"). Naturally, this kind of muted pigeonholing doesn't actually explain a great deal other than the diversity of the material on offer, a diversity that reflects the inspirational source of Smith's novel.
In many cases the album has a "homemade" feeling, despite the obvious quality of the recordings - its a sense of intimacy, a real and sustained sensation of honest contemplation turned to artistic exposition. Nothing is out of place, nothing overstays its welcome, no single element is overused. And for all those scratching their heads, wondering "Beady Belle have made a concept album?" be assured that the inspiration has not overrun the music: this is a solid album made up of great songs with the welcome added bonus of being intelligent and thoughtful about a complex subject.
The Beady Belle core of Beate S. Lech on vocals (possibly one of, if not THE most consistent vocalist in the Norwegian scene), Marius Reksjø on bass, and Erik Holm on drums is augmented by David Wallumrød on keys (a much-lauded keyboardist whose name shows up on diverse albums and whose sound is more expressive than its origins would lead you to expect) and fellow Jazzland Recordings artist, Torun Eriksen provides additional vocals (Torun herself being yet another consistent vocalist from the Norwegian scene with several great albums of her own).