Given the ream of credits already to Moses Boyd’s name, it’s hard to believe that Dark Matter is his first full-length solo album. Or perhaps it’s a wonder he ever found the time to make one at all. He’s held down BBC radio residencies, scored fashion shows and shared studio time with everyone from Sampha to Kelsey Lu to gqom pioneer DJ Lag.
Boyd trained as a jazz drummer, but where that comes through most on this record is in the freewheeling, collaborative sensibilities of the record’s movement. Pieced together from sketches and fragments over the past two years, Dark Matter distils the broad church of his influence.
There’s grime in the punchy horns, skittering hats and the snap of the snare on opener Stranger Than Fiction. Only You layers muffled saxophone stabs into a euphoric trance riff, cut through with reverb-drenched vocal snippets. Ezra Collective founder Joe Armon-Jones joins on keys for 2 Far Gone – his opening, measured concert hall solo exploding into life at the addition of silky two-step drums. Shades of You recalls the dark garage mutations of the early noughties that would eventually become dubstep; its squelchy bassline and rattling drums akin to early Skream and Benga. There are shades of Tony Allen in the drumming on Y.O.Y.O. and BTB. Dancing In the Dark builds with so much poise that it takes on a deep, meditative roll; Obongjayar’s throaty vocals a perfect foil to the squealing sax and pounding drums.
Producer albums can often be noodly, navel-gazing affairs – either succumbing to an obsession with studio gear, or seen as an opportunity to flex a contacts book. This isn’t one of those. Everything feels acutely considered, from the makeup of instruments, to who’s playing them, to how the sounds are treated once recorded. Here, it all matters.