UK mastermind Phil Gamble aka Girl Unit makes a powerful return with Song Feel, his debut full-length album and first release since 2012’s acclaimed EP Club Rez, featuring Kelela, Taliwhoah, Ms Boogie and more.
An essential member of London’s eclectic Night Slugs camp, he’s back with a fully developed body of work featuring six key vocal collaborators. While still steeped in low-end pressure like his past work, Song Feel r eaches toward a classic timelessness: time-honoured elements of production sit seamlessly alongside the most contemporary sounds, as Girl Unit densely layers radio gloss and big melodies over beats that take influence from a variety of Club and Pop sources.
Since the start Girl Unit has always taken influence from pop, preferring to hear music with vocals both on and off the dancefloor. Here he has created a unique sonic environment for each of his collaborators to tell their story. The record opens with ‘WYWD’, featuring R&B iconoclast and long-time collaborator Kelela gliding over intimate street soul sonics and luminous funky leads. Next, a volatile West Coast bassline and stadium-size dancehall percussion guide British singer Taliwhoah through elegant synth washes on ‘Stuck’. On ‘Wreck’, Brooklyn rapper Ms Boogie spits hardcore verses that twist and turn along GU’s erratic lows, creepy atmospheres and drillin’ drums.
‘Pull Up’ featuring Tampa’s Thast delivering a menacing confrontational flow over gliding subs and eerie staccato. Los Angeleno Rush Davis sings metaphysical soul over a saccharine choir on the slow-burning ‘Evidence’. Lastly, London’s Brook Baili dances with big piano chords and jubilant basslines on the radio-ready swing of ’24 Hours’.
Though Girl Unit gave his features free reign vocally, clear themes of changing relationships in a modern era emerge across Song Feel, lending the record a curiously frothy yet intimate sensation. In-between, blissfully stripped-down instrumental interludes bind everything together, giving the album’s host and creator some much-deserved solo time.