Soul man pushes the boundaries.
Multiply, British techno producer Jamie Lidell’s first foray into straight-faced R&B music, seamlessly blended neo-soul vocals with slinky electronica and was a front-to-back winner upon its 2005 release. After 2008’s Jim committed too heavily to a tidy view of old-school soul arrangements, Compass finds Lidell delving into his more experimental tendencies. From the stuttering gospel of “Completely Exposed” to the fuzzed-out guitar pop of “You Are Waking,” Compass clicks when Lidell offers his own surreal musical vision. Unfortunately, the album feels about 10 minutes too long, and straightforward R&B tracks like the Stevie Wonder homage “The Ring” and the Prince-like minimalism of “I Can Love Again” are delightful but ultimately out of line with the album’s exploratory nature. While Beck, Feist and others turn in guest spots, Lidell’s soul-baring vocals are the album’s main asset, especially on slower jams like “She Needs Me”. Compass may have more blemishes than Lidell’s previous outings, but they sound like the growing pains of a truly gifted voice.