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Saturday, 5 August, 2000, 22:12 GMT 23:12 UK
CD Review: MJ Cole
MJ Cole
MJ Cole releases Sincere on Talkin' Loud
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Musical fashions may come and go, but for now at least MJ Cole is a 2 Step ahead of the game.

Among the leading lights of the UK Garage movement, the London-based producer-musician is poised to reach a wider audience with this album of stylish, syncopated sounds.

Sincere has already attracted its fair share of publicity after being named among the Mercury Music Prize nominees several weeks before its release.


There may be a few old bangers parked in the UK Garage, but in MJ Cole the movement has its very own Rolls Royce

Nigel Packer
But if success appears to have been sudden and spectacular for Cole - real name Matthew Coleman - it's based on hard graft and some highbrow credentials, including a degree from the Royal College of Music.

His classical training shines through on some disciplined and sophisticated arrangements which meld floor-shuddering beats to cool, jazzy tunes.

And if the choppy rhythms of garage sometimes seem restrictive, he transcends such limitations by working them into a broad range of musical settings.

Focus

The brief Introduction finds Cole dabbling moodily at the piano, but for much of the time he is happy to leave the limelight to his guest singers - notably the talented Elizabeth Troy Antwi.

Several tracks match the instant appeal of current single Crazy Love - which bobs along on a wave of pizzicato strings.

Cole has highbrow credentials
Cole has highbrow credentials
Hold On To Me sets muted trumpet and splashy electric piano alongside a strong chorus, while You're Mine packs a big enough punch to energise any dance floor.

At times the melodies take a back seat as the album drifts into a colourful space somewhere between dance, soul and ambient jazz - just the kind of adventurous approach to appeal to the Mercury judges.

But even at its most experimental Sincere maintains a sharp sense of focus, thanks to Cole's tight-knit production work and the sinuous, non-stop movement of the drum tracks.

In short it is an album for clubbers and chin-strokers alike - tuneful, thoughtful and assembled with a painstaking attention to detail.

There may be a few old bangers parked in the UK Garage, but in MJ Cole the movement has its very own Rolls Royce.

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