For anyone preparing to battle a bout of seasonal-affective disorder, producer Martin Brew, otherwise known as Manchester’s sonic-maestro J-Walk, is all set to shine a little limelight through the dark with eight deep cuts that shimmer on the brand new LP Limelight Nights.
“I started on Limelight Nights during the spring and it was very much inspired by the nice weather at the time which also seemed to galvanise me into making something ‘summery’ in feel,” Martin explains. “It’s all about light, time, seasons and how certain points in the day or year can invoke a certain feeling or mood…from melancholy to joyfulness and all the other places in between.”
Serving as a precursor to J-Walk’s debut LP A Night On The Rocks, which captured the feel of a night-time world, Limelight Nights is inspired by what happens prior to that. The moment when twilight descends, the sun sets, the stars begin to sparkle and all the wild and wonderful anticipation, expectations and excitement it brings.
With 12 years between J-Walk’s debut and sophomore release, fans waited whilst J-Walk took a break after touring, remixed Baaba Maal, Rae And Christian, Kings Of Convenience, and Nitin Sawhney, then took some time to recharge when “life just kind of took over” but Limelight Nights was written in just 12 months. Surprising, given that J-Walk now plays the role of all members of a fictitious band, writing, playing and recording all instruments himself. “I now record my guitars to my computer rather than tape and have to think like each separate member of a band to play that particular instrument. It means the process takes longer than a band writing and playing together,” Martin says.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the influence of Manchester. Whilst the city centre buckles under the weight of change and lines the pockets of the already rich, Limelight Nights takes a fresh new stance; “I live just outside Manchester and see it every day! It’s a dynamic city with all the development that’s still going on, but it’s now the fringes of the city where the interesting stuff happens… in the old run-down industrial arches and warehouses; in the hinterlands that are probably an embarrassment to the council… this is where the young and hungry creative energies can be found that I find inspiring.”
Wiping off the raindrops and peering in from the outside, each track is shot with serotonin and brings a voyeuristic positivity to the changing northern landscape. Since the days of the project’s incarnation after using one of New Order’s old Akai S900 samplers – an artefact that no longer works, but still takes pride of place in Martin’s home (“I can’t let it go as it’s a little piece of history and very special to me!”) J-Walk’s musical influences and passions have once again been given the treatment they so brilliantly deserve with a body of twisting sweeping synths for a deeper dance vibe.
The seductive French vocals of ‘Aimons Toujours’ and infectious West-Coast groove of ‘Twilight’ draw inspiration from producers and artists such as Bibio, Peaking Lights, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, and MGMT plus The Durutti Column, Tom Tom Club, Sly & Robbie, and the Style Council. There’s even a nod to local legend, the late Rob Gretton. “Rob gave me my first break and released my first record…something I’m eternally grateful for,” Martin recalls. “He was warm and brilliantly sharp, and always took a keen interest in the music I was making. I miss him and still think about him lots – in many ways he defined Manchester for me since my teens and still does, because that musical legacy and the city are inseparable.
The vital thing, however, Martin says, is to keep looking forward and keep it light; “As an artist it’s important to develop and push yourself further all the time. I’ve been DJing since my teens, and have been buying records religiously since I was 13, so in a sense it’s my job to keep up to date with what’s happening. I’m very proud of the music I have made, and am currently making – it’s all part of the journey and the overall oeuvre.”