London's own multidisciplinary artist Rarelyalways kicks off 2023 with the announcement of his forthcoming debut album WORK due March 10th. Along with the album announcement, Rarelyalways shares the first taste of the project with the single "LET'S." Hypnotic, cavernous rhythms float beneath distinct vocals on the track, underscoring Rarleyalways as the self described "shapeshifter." The lead single arrives with visuals directed by MadeInEden portraying Rarelyalways lounging in a bed with Precious Joie on a rooftop in London as they peek out at each other beneath eye masks and playfully start a pillow fight. Additionally, Rarelyalways shares visuals to the b-side, "Voice note 0142," also directed by MadeInEden, which sonically showcases the more jazzy side of Rarelyalways' roots as a jazz bassist.
WORK's announcement follows Rarelyalways' collaborative Manic EP with Hanni El Khatib, featuring the stand out single "Lamenting" as well as his 2020 EP Baby Buffalo. His debut EP was described by The FADER as, “a concise exhibition of his minimalist swagger," with Pitchfork adding, "though Rarelyalways comes out of the London jazz scene, his music has its own distinct flavor."
Rarelyalways learned from a young age that music had functions beyond entertainment. Born in London to a West African family, he was raised by his single father, a drummer who played mainly gospel tunes during hours-long services and would bring Rarely along for afternoons in practice spaces where the young musician learned the power of playing for playing's sake. Rarelyalways went on to attend The BRIT School and eventually entered the South London gig circuit where he would play trip hop and heavy rock in the orbit of artists like King Krule, Henry Wu and the Tomorrow's Warriors jazz collective. With his music often taking on a dark, mysterious tone, Rarely is able to roam freely outside the prescribed structures of hip hop, jazz or anything else, by creating a conversational abstract style that can mold according to a song's message.
Rarelyalways released his brilliant ‘Baby Buffalo’ EP last October to critical acclaim, and equally impressive ‘Manic EP’ in June. Providing further evidence of his distinctive style and flavour, the Hanni El Khatib produced follow-up saw grime, trip hop & jazz effortlessly intermingle with his unique, skeletal flow. A year on from his debut and out today via Innovative Leisure, new single ‘Don’t Ask’ takes us on an enticing journey through British rap, funk and R’n’B. Representing the first in a series of new releases, the track sees the enigmatic Hackney rapper and jazz musician take an innovative approach, showcasing a heavy West Coast influence and grooving through different gears with his trademark snarl. “I can see James brown two-stepping to this,” he quips “’That’s as good as it comes’ is a line I always tell myself when I sometimes slip into a welfare mentality.”
Delving deep into a vast skillset developed from a dizzying array of musical education and practice, Rarelyalways has walked his own path, absorbing culture and music from even the most unlikely sources. Subtle hints of great British one-offs like Tricky, Roots Manuva or a more laid-back Dizzee Rascal are strewn across his tracks. He is a talent emerging fully formed, certain of who he is, and even at this young age, seems ready to share important life lessons with the biggest possible audience.
Already at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Marc steps into the spotlight with his upcoming ‘Breathe Suite’ EP, set for release via LA imprint Innovative Leisure on 1st October. As premiered on Wonderland, poet-performer Rarelyalways and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings add their freeform flourishes to first offering ‘Breathe Suite B’. A swirling climax is reached as the vocalists chorus “breathe” over and over, then fading out as a police siren whirrs – a powerful “pause for reflection,” says Marc, on the tumult of the past year. Marc was finishing the EP during lockdown when the death of George Floyd shook the world and, as a result, he and vocalist Midnight Roba steered the release in a more contemplative direction:
“We wanted to make something meditative to help people through this traumatic time. The video shows a day in a life of a young black girl. At the start of the film it shows her struggles, a panic, then a sense of hiding and running away from daily problems. As the film develops it progresses into this girl finding peace, using contemplation and individual thought processes. The later part of the film, especially in the club, it brings together a sense of collective thoughts, struggles, happiness and up-rising.”
Marc, the alias of Neil Charles, has quite the musical pedigree. He grew up splitting his time between Birmingham and Carriacou in the Caribbean: at school in the English city, he started taking classical music lessons aged 10, while back on the island, he got into guitar thanks to the street performers who’d play soca music at family events and with whom he ended up playing as a young boy, going from house to house. At home, his musical upbringing was just as varied. “My dad would be playing Bob Marley and my mum would be playing Blondie. That and classical music was normal.”
After touring the world in school orchestras, Marc moved to London to take classical double bass at the prestigious Trinity College of Music, where Fela Kuti once studied, under the tutelage of double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku. “I knew I had to come to London to study with her,” he says. “There weren’t many people who looked like me in classical music. I got stopped by the police all the time in central London, on my way to Trinity.” But despite his conservatoire training, he was never able to professionally puncture the stuffy world of orchestras. “I stopped playing double bass for four years because no one was employing people like me,” he says. “I knew I was good but I wasn’t even getting auditions. Eventually, I stopped practising.”
It wasn’t until a chance meeting in Brixton with Gary Crosby, linchpin of Tomorrow’s Warriors – the crucial London jazz educators that connect the UK new wave luminaries, from Nubya Garcia to Moses Boyd – that the possibility of jazz shone like a beacon. “He was Black and holding a double bass, so I went up to him on the street and tapped him on the shoulder to find out what he was doing,” says Marc. It was the start of a game-changing journey that would see him play first with smart jazz group Empirical and then led him to forming the free-jazz trio Zed-U, alongside Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming) and drummer Tom Skinner. With Zed-U, Marc’s passion for electronic music began to bubble up. He and Hutchings would frequent London nightclubs together, soaking in the sounds of garage, broken beat and drum’n’bass at iconic former spots such as The End and Plastic People. He even took Hutchings to his first house and techno night, where DJs like Sven Vath and Ricardo Villolobos would man the decks – influences that led Marc to produce a house EP for the London-based label Atjazz. His work with other key figures has been building up, too: last year, he joined keysman Ashley Henry on the latter’s track ‘The Mighty’, which Marc wrote and produced.
In his new music, Ben Marc has unified these influences into a sublime whole. Now signed to LA’s Innovative Leisure, he’s found a home alongside similarly future-thinking artists like Badbadnotgood, Nosaj Thing, Rarelyalways and Jimmy Edgar. ‘Breathe Suite’ a lustrous EP of sweeping strings, rippling piano and meditative vocals: two suites that show off Marc’s gift for composing and arranging, bookended by two stirring improvisations.
Rarelyalways released his brilliant "Baby Buffalo" EP last October to critical acclaim. Pitchfork praised the Hackney raised jazz musician, producer and vocalist for carving out a niche of his own, whilst Billboard, amongst others, boldly predicted big things on the horizon. Fast forward 6 months and "Manic" provides further evidence of his distinctive style and flavor. Produced by Hanni El Khatib, grime, trip hop; jazz effortlessly intermingle with his unique, skeletal flow. First single "Lamenting" echoed the importance of community support, and second single "Hungry" was written in his final years at secondary school, in the aftermath of the Mark Duggan shooting. The EP is completed by rush hour inspired title-track "Manic" and sentimental opener "Careful."