Jamie Lidell cemented a style of hiccuping, honeyed cybersoul in 2005 with his sophomore album Multiply. Using a combination of custom DSP patches and outboard gear he’d been amassing since the late ’90s, the Brighton, England, expatriate brought together elements of tech-house, IDM, neo-soul, and electro while adrift in Berlin, Germany. Now, 10 years and multiple cities later, Lidell continues to refine his funk-soul sensibilities, often playing it by ear.
“Everyone in interviews is intent on me revealing a strong strategy, a game plan for creating a record,” says Lidell, speaking by phone from Amsterdam. “But I tend to feel my way through and when I feel there is a collection emerging I contemplate an album.”
Lidell’s latest assembly of songs is Building a Beginning, released on his own Jajulin Records. Coming nearly four years after 2013’s Jamie Lidell, this sixth LP is the first album that Lidell has not released on Warp Records, which was his label for 15 years. “It’s no disrespect to Warp; it’s not that I didn’t get along with people there,” he says. “It’s just me feeling that to be excited about the process again I needed that new blood, you know.”
For a period, Lidell’s attention had been focused more on collaborations and co-writing, garnering him a Grammy nomination for his production/songwriting on Lianne La Havas’s “Green & Gold” and a Juno nomination for his work on A-Trak’s “We All Fall Down.” However, Lidell also wrote dozens of songs for his own projects during this prolific period, 14 of which comprise Building a Beginning.
Inspired by personal relationships building up to the birth of his first child, Julian, Building a Beginning is an organically evolved album that eventually gelled through judicious post-production creativity. Philosophically, Building a Beginning celebrates the powerful, transformative instrument that is the human voice and the joyful exuberance derived from bringing together great players. Lyrics, cowritten by Lidell’s wife, Lindsey Rome, bring achingly honest emotions to the earthy arrangements.
Whereas Jamie Lidell was a more machineshaded robofunk album—the work of one man and enough gear to fill a recently acquired 3,000-square foot house in Nashville, Tenn., where Lidell and family still live—Building a Beginning is saturated with the heritage of soul music; the sounds are informed in some ways by Stevie Wonder and David Bowie’s output of the early to mid ’70s, and by the blown out, yet dynamically rich and intact aesthetic of Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color.
Lidell began building the new album with clarity of purpose. “I’ve debated over the years whether you really need to be able to play a great song on a guitar, feel the essence coming through regardless of arrangement, and I flip-flopped on that argument,” he says. “But for this one I felt the answer is, ‘Yes,’ and that makes it more of a ‘Nashville record’ perhaps. I think all of these songs sound pretty great on keyboard or guitar played pretty simply.