Liberation is the third Long-Player from Venus In Motion, which is the musical vehicle of Angel Johnson. It’s her first album since 2013’s Somebody’s Heaven, which, came seven years after her debut, 2007’s Walking in Limbo.
Angel has been involved in music since 1990, and anyone who grew up clubbing in the 90s will definitely remember her, as DJ Angel, one of the foremost female DJs in the male-dominated arena. She made her name at Nottingham’s clubbing institution Venus, was resident for four years at Swoon in Stafford and played relentlessly all over the country at iconic clubs such as Ministry of Sound, Golden and The Haçienda, as well as performing regularly in Ibiza and further afield.
Liberation feels like a rebirth for Angel. The title itself has huge resonance, as it is the sound of Angel breaking free from her fears and allowing herself to be the woman she was always destined to be. It’s a positive, organic album, which oozes confidence and warmth. Her songs are pretty autobiographical. On her first two albums, it felt like she was shedding some emotional baggage, but here we have her stepping out the other side, a confident woman, looking forward to a bright future.
As usual, she has written or co-written, produced and mixed the record entirely by herself. There is more live instrumentation this time, giving it a more harmonious ambiance. She is joined by her singers, Naomi Leigh and Cherry Mars, who contribute their customary soulful, sultry tones to the proceedings with their usual panache. On this outing, they are joined by singer Tammy Cartwright, guitarist, Miguel Ramon, and bassist Keith Bradshaw. Moses Okorotete, a full-time painter and decorator and part-time choir director also appears on two songs, and it’s a beautiful story in which Angel overheard him singing to himself while he was decorating a friend’s house, she was so taken aback with the honesty and purity in his voice that he was hired on the spot. It’s a close-knit group and the warmth really comes across in the feel of the record.
There’s an array of different styles on the album, giving it a more eclectic texture. There are old-skool beats, jazz, blues, soul, Latin vibes alongside her signature downtempo house sound. Angel has crafted a record that contains all the styles she has absorbed throughout her entire life as a music obsessive and keen observer of life, which is a key talent. She is entirely self-taught, and her keen eye pulses through her work, the devil’s in the details as they say!
Shine a Light kicks off the album, a jazzy slow groove, both sultry and confident. As the title suggests, it’s a positive opener, and sets the mood up beautifully for what’s to come. Please immediately picks up the pace with its impossibly catchy melody and dashes of electronic beats, and from here on in, we’re in for a succession of captivating tales as the quality of the songwriting really shines through. Like I said before, we get a variety of different styles of music, but throughout the album, the quality of the compositions really radiates. Electronic World is impossible to dislodge from your brain by the first chorus, and hooks you in so you’re singing along by the second chorus. My Crown is exquisite, again, with a gorgeous chorus about Angel’s ‘fro being her halo, again, you’re singing along without even knowing. The pace of the album is perfectly sequenced too; we get slower jams alongside faster-paced numbers so it holds your attention by not being too samey. My complaint about albums these days is that that they’re often ‘front-loaded’ with all the big tunes at the start and then disintegrate into filler territory. That can’t be said about Liberation, as it’s quality throughout, as she hops easily from style to style with mixed tempos, and it all hangs together cohesively as a whole.
At 14 tracks, it never outstays its welcome. If anything, the final five tracks are the most divine. As a DJ, Angel knows perfectly well how to ‘build a set,’ and clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the sequencing of tracks. He Don’t Know is pure lusciousness, Naomi Leigh’s voice glimmers through your speakers and the music is equally arresting. Move On, sung by Cherry Mars is a glorious hymn of empowerment, a statement of intent that typifies the concept of the album, that of freeing yourself from negativity and getting on with it. It’s a gorgeous tune, but we’re not done yet. Not Complaining builds into a housey anthem, again it’s irresistibly catchy, as it expertly veers between tempos. The closing track, Get High is an out-and-out club banger that will set any dancefloor on fire. In fact, I intend to road-test it this weekend. It’s a perfect end to the proceedings and brings the album to its finale with style and class.
All in all, Venus In Motion’s Liberation is an absolute triumph. Without wanting to pigeonhole the record, it’s a delectable grown-up pop album that’s destined to be heard by a lot of people. And with the release date at the end of April, it’s perfectly poised to become the soundtrack to your summer. Let’s hope the English weather responds to the sunny vibes within. Liberate that sunshine!
Liberation will be available in all stores worldwide on 27th April 2018:
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