Jamie Woon – ‘Making Time’

London soul singer embraces smart R&B on long-delayed second album

Back in 2010 Jamie Woon was, critics said, going to be one of dubstep’s first crossover stars. His breakthrough song ‘Night Air’, produced by Burial, was a stunning marriage of echoing electronics, pulsing sub bass and Woon’s soulful vocals. In the event it failed to make much impact. The following year Woon released ‘Mirrorwriting’, an album of downtempo R&B and soul, and promptly vanished.

The 32-year-old Londoner was last heard singing on ‘January’ from Disclosure’s 2013 debut, ‘Settle’. This second album, recorded with Wild Beasts producer Lexx, is released on their PMR label. The reason for the four year gap between records? That’s just the speed he works at, apparently.

Like it’s predecessor, ‘Making Time’ has more in common with ’90s neo soul singers like Maxwell and Erykah Badu than dubstep. If anything, the umbilical cord stretching back to neo soul is even more evident, and Woon says the record is directly inspired the genre’s biggest name, D’Angelo. ‘Movement’ is built on a muscular bass groove and clackity percussion, with Woon’s vocal doing backflips over the top. If anyone is making more vibrant R&B right now, they’re keeping very quiet about it. ‘Sharpness’ has been championed by Pharrell Williams and it’s not hard to see why. The lolloping rhythm, smooth keys and falsetto smartly update vintage R&B sounds. ‘Thunder’, meanwhile, takes the retro vibe further with some jazz vocal scats, strummed guitar and close harmonies.

It’s not all good, though. As with ‘Mirrorwriting’, Woon’s natural tendency towards restraint results in some forgettable moments. ‘Celebration’, featuring New York folk singer Willy Mason plods along pleasantly on wafts of brass and warm bass fuzz, but seconds after it’s finished you be hard pressed to name anything memorable about it, let alone hum the tune.

The prevailing air understatement doesn’t detract from ‘Making Time’, but it does mean it just peters out. Woon could have done with pursuing the harder edge of ‘Movement’ a bit more. But he does things his own way and, for the most part, that’s a very good thing.

Chris Cottingham