Keep Reachin’ Up” by Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators was one of the word-of mouth successes of 2006. Its perfect combination of Willis’ catchy Motown inspired song-writing and the Soul Investigator’s authentic heavy-funk sound was a match made in heaven at a time when Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson were yet to ride to success on a rhythm track provided by friends The Daptones.

Considering the cohesive authenticity of “Keep Reachin’ Up”, the remixes that make up this package push Nicole and The Investigator’s sound in a pretty diverse set of directions. From Hammond-funk to Electronica, via Dub-step, House, Reggae and Jazz, Above the Clouds have managed to enlist an impressively wide range of talent whilst still building a cohesive album that plays beautifully from start to finish.

Keeping the funk-sound alive are Breakin Bread’s DJ Rob Life and Freestyle’s Lack of Afro. The former takes the album’s title track into the cutting room and, in the absence of original parts, re-edits it into a break-heavy b-boy banger whilst the latter rewrites and replays all of “A Perfect Kind of Love” with the help of Funkshone’s Mike Bandoni.

Dance-floor treatments are delivered by some of the UK’s most respected producers, including northern speaker wobbler Mr Scruff and BBE nu-blood Aaron Jerome, both of whom extend and rework the album’s biggest singles into highly accessible but equally respectful wide-screen versions. Pirate-soul buccaneers Blackbeard flip ballad “No-One’s Gonna Love You” into a dubbed-out double-time space boogie whilst Raw Fusion’s Simbad pushes the dub influences even further with his ‘deep-step’ remix which fuses Detroit soul and Detroit house and puts it through a dub-step mincer. Not to be out-done by anyone however, Bugz in the Attic’s Afronaut delivers what is possibly the album’s heaviest hitter with his last-minute remix of Holding On. As you would expect, the drums emerge ever-so-slightly broken and drenched in atmospheric pads before Nicole’s soar above a speaker-bothering and funky as hell bass-line.

Providing the necessary breathing space between the more club-oriented tracks are everybody’s favourite cover band The Dynamics and some of the UK’s freshest Hip-Hop producers Ghost and Heralds of Change. The Dynamics bring their Mitoo-esque rocksteady skank to “My 4 Leaf Clover” whilst Ghost and HoC take “The Soul Investgator’s Theme” in two unique directions. Both are clearly influenced by the late great J Dilla but while Ghost follows Hip-Hop’s minimal tradition of a few well chosen and atmospheric loops, HoC stretch and mangle everything they can fit into their futuristic mincer churning out a Prefuse-esque piece perfectly poised between delicate musicality and mind-bending drum programming.

Jazz-dancing us out of the album comes Canada’s much respected Elizabeth Shepherd Trio whose re-write of “If This Ain’t Love” will have you jonesing for Sunday afternoon at Dingwalls even if you were never there!

Release date: 29th october 2007

Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators

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