2021 Apr 05     
2 Bit Thugs

Danny Ward delves into downtempo pastures with this collection of beats-based oddities

Mancunian producer Danny Ward has always worn several musical hats, making hip-hop and leftfield breaks as Dubble D and deep house as Moodymanc while also being, on the quiet and under his own name, one of the most respected jazz drummers in the UK. And now he dons another as, under his brand new nom de guerre Vault, he serves up a collection of beats-based oddities and curios that's been 20 years in the making.

Well, kinda – the clue's in the artist name. This album has come about as a result of lockdown: Mr Ward's been using the enforced downtime to rummage around old hard drives and DAT tapes, and revisit some of those musical doodles that, for one reason or another, never quite made it out of the gate. After some tweaking and polishing and with a few new bits and bobs thrown in for good measure, what he ended up with was Cows On A Beach, a collection of 20 downtempo cuts on his own Well Cut Records label that'll appeal to headnodders, tokers, blissed out Balearic beach bunnies and chin-stroking jazzbos – sometimes by turns, and sometimes all at once!

The album opens with the looping, vaguely Lemon Jelly-ish Love N Smoke, a song with an important message, but laidback Balearic grooves aren't the whole story here by any means. Elsewhere on the album, you'll find mellow, sumptuous funk/soul grooves like Wanted nestling up alongside wonky jazz cuts like Heroin and Era, moody hip-hop instrumentals like Woo Ha! sitting side-by-side with lounge-y soundtrack-y vibes like Bumble, and more besides.

Given the sheer variety on offer – and given that these tracks were, as described above, born as much as 20 years apart – there might, on the first couple of listens, be moments when you find yourself thinking, 'Hang on, this is still the same album, is it?'. But once it all sinks in, that smorgasbord-like approach becomes the album's greatest strength, because – dazzlingly eclectic in approach, but bearing the hallmarks throughout of having been crafted by, y'know, an actual proper musician – this is one long-player you're unlikely to get bored of any time soon.

Words: Russell Deeks

Release date: 2 April



Review Score: 8




Tags: Danny Ward, Vault, Moodymanc, Dubble D, downtempo, Balearic, leftfield, beats, hip-hop