It is hard to not root for D’Angelo, the long-dormant R&B genius who, in the 12-year (!) period between his classic album Voodoo and now, has had run-ins with the law and mean-spirited internet giggles directed his way. But in December, Roots drummer and longtime collaborator ?uestlove told Pitchfork that the singer’s long-gestating followup to Voodoo, James River, was almost done, and that it would be pretty mindblowing. D’Angelo’s getting back in the swing of things with a couple of shows in Europe; last night in Stockholm he played the first, and yes, there are clips of them online, and yes, he threw a couple of new songs onto the set list. And they are really really good.
D’Angelo, “The Charade”
?uestlove told Pitchfork about the recorded version of this song: “One song we worked on called ‘Charade’ has this trombone patch that he re-EQ’d and then put through an envelope filter and then added a vibraphone noise on top and made a whole new patch out of it. He’s the only person I know that takes a Herbie Hancock approach, or Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff—the two musician/engineers who programmed all of Stevie Wonder’s genius-period stuff—approach. That’s the last time I ever heard of somebody building patches. We’ll see if history is kind to it.”
D’Angelo, “Sugar Daddy”
There’s no release date for James River yet (?uestlove said it was “97% done” when he talked to Pitchfork last month) but these two songs are making me hope that it comes very soon. Very.