Echoes album cover

Wally Badarou

Island Records

There can be few artists more under-appreciated given their vast influence than French keyboardist Wally Badarou. His role as the unofficial “fifth member” of Level 42 contributed majorly to the sound of the 80s, but probably even more, as part of the Compass Point All Stars, his work with Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Gwen Guthrie, Jimmy Cliff and more fed into so many overground and underground currents. And just as potently, but even more unknown, his solo work practically defined the sound of the Balearic DJs of the 1980s, and thus the more sophisticated sound of dance culture thereafter. The delicate, thoughtful grooves of Echoes bring together everything from West African highlife guitars to Yellow Magic Orchestra inspired orientalist motifs, jazz-funk to academic minimalism, all with cutting edge use of synths and rhythm machines. The sense of a record out of time is increased by “Mambo,” large sections of which would be repurposed for Massive Attack's “Daydreaming,” and by the final beatless, emotive piano piece “Rain” which seems to carve out a space beyond influence. All of it has a globalism, a sophisticated outsider vibe, that perfectly fits with the most otherworldly of dance floors, still.

Joe Muggs

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