Vince Watson continually surrounds his music with conversations of beauty and soul and the importance of each in an age of dance music ruled by plugins, laptops, and over-digitization. “…there’s no longevity to it. The digital age has sort of made these, throw-away tracks. You play something for a week, something else comes out so you replace it.” It becomes apparent that the core of Watson’s views on musicality is supremely purist in its regard to general musical proficiency and the importance of a human influence in electronic music. All of it might stink of superiority and arrogance (or idealism), but listening to Watson’s sixth LP, Every Soul Needs A Guide, the record’s vivid color and lush sense of beauty help give the Scottish producer’s musical worldview a place to live and breathe.
Every Soul Needs A Guide is Watson’s first full-length in six years, following a brief stint on Delsin with the excellent The eMotion Sequence in 2006. Every Soul was conceived as a more jazz-influenced record around the same time, but initially had trouble finding a home. After five more years of additional work, the LP gets a release on Watson’s own imprint named for the album. Every Soul Needs A Guide is very recognizably a Vince Watson LP, its focus on busy, major key synth textures and melody tied to a more organic strand of dance music. But it feels even less like a techno or deep house album. Watson’s adherence to instrumental jazz structures coupled with tropical tide-break synthesizers, electric keys, and thick, natural percussion loops create an album that sounds more like Afro-Carribean futurism.
“Found What I’m Looking For” is a stunning opener, weaving a rich, brightly dyed tapestry of jagged string plucks, hollowed, stoney percussion plunks, and some virtuoso electric piano playing, forming a slowly blooming super nova cresting over a jeweled ocean’s edge. “Come With Me” and the standout title track outline the rest of the record, settling in with rattling hand drum loops and staccato jazz keys before sprawling out with lush, pseudo-improvised synthesizer centerpieces. Watson starts small, setting the stage with a few grounded rhythms before building into something huge, atmospheric, and lively. It’s impressive how structurally sophisticated yet liberated these tracks are. They’re littered with tiny rhythmic details and tied down by rounded, playful bass hooks, but then Watson seems to just let go with the synth arrangement, wrapping the track in foamy nebulas tendrils until the whole thing is pulsing with a kind of fantastical abandon.
The record has tracks like “Never Too Late” and “A Fairytale” as well, which break up the bigger instrumental powerhouses. The former is a kind of shuffling, lounge-y piano ballad played along an ocean breeze beneath an arcing star-field. “A Fairytale” is a beautiful eyes-wide ambient track, centered around a longing-filled melody and some pattering mechanical textures. If there’s one criticism I have with Every Soul it’s that its tonal and instrumental consistency causes some of the later tracks to bleed together, but its a minor qualm considering how endlessly textured each cut is. And the consistency is as much of a positive, helping give the record an A-to-B feel from beginning to end.
Every Soul Needs A Guide ends with “The Journey,” a tangle of layered piano atop a bed of rising, all-consuming synths. The track is an emotional summation and farewell from an album predicated on the sonic journey. There is a palpable sense of place and movement on Every Soul with enough emotional diversity to feel like you’re making stops at various abstracted, elevated landscapes. Watson achieves what he sets out to do, lending a hand to the listener to bring them on a linear trip through the producer’s musical and emotional sensibilities and leaving a significant and lasting impression while he’s at it.