Dego is an artist whose reputation has always preceded him, in the way a fanfare precedes the king. This also kinda sucks – it means there are probably more “Dego fans” than “Dego record buyers,” though that’s also probably true for more great artists today than at any time in history.
But it’s a reputation that has grown, in part because the broken beat scene that he spearheaded with 4Hero has become a germinating seed for so many other musicians and sounds and scenes. Dego has become recognized as the producer that other producers want to become.
He is our Quincy Jones in this respect – he doesn’t so much master a genre as much as play with it, with all of them, like colors in a painter’s palette that shades in a slight haze of jazz here, drum’n’bass there, sounds and textures that in the hands of anyone else not only don’t work but repel one another. It isn’t easy, though he often makes it sound as if it is. Careers have been set in flames and burned out when people tried and failed to get this right.
Dego’s latest album, Too Much, dropped in September. A cursory listen simply isn’t possible: Dego has released an album with more soul than any album should be able to contain, and it draws you in by a force of animal magnetism.
It’s a bit of everything, as I said, but it’s mostly jazz except when it’s neo-soul, mostly broken beats except when it’s Afro/Latin – it’s a production tour de force but among the most listenable, contemplative musical experiences committed to wax.
The featured performers here give their best, and Dego makes them sound terrific. Maybe “animal magnetism” is right: he somehow coaxed or lured Ivana Santilli for “Remini Dream,” and the legendary Toronto songstress gives an appropriately legendary performance. The production work here is stunning – the music is radiant, almost pulsing behind her like elaborate stage lighting. The candied tones of Santilli give way to the rootsy, floorboard funk of Obenaewa on “I Don’t Wanna Know.” “You Are Virgo” soars with virtuoso keys and, like many of the tracks, just a hint of Afropop in the rhythm section. Also of note here is a powerful performance on the zigzagging neo-soul of “Just Leave It” and the 8 minute fusion jazz instrumental “My Standards Are (Not) Too High” that ends an album of crashing waves with a gentle eddy.
Dego: Too Much / 2000 Black / Release Date: September 6, 2019 / 12″ vinyl + digital
1. Dego: A Strong Move For Truth ft Nadine Charles (03:18)
2. Dego: Good Morning ft Samii (02:38)
3. Dego: Remini Dream ft Ivana Santilli (03:47)
4. Dego: I Don’t Wanna Know ft Obenewa (03:18)
5. Dego: Unknown Faults (04:31)
6. Dego: Life Can Be Unreal ft Sarina Leah (02:52)
7. Dego: Too Much ft Sharlene Hector (01:58)
8. Dego: You Are Virgo (04:59)
9. Dego: Come Of Age (03:26)
10. Dego: Just Leave It ft Lady Alma (04:50)
11. Dego: Numero 15 (02:26)
12. Dego: Ogawa Okasan Said Just Play (04:43)
13. Dego: A Where Pringle Deh? (02:15)
14. Dego: My Standards Are (Not) Too High (08:37)
Photo via Dego on Bandcamp.