The downtempo lounge music album, “Afternoons in a warm embrace”, is a 12 track project by UK based ToffoBean, comprising members Dougie McAuley and Phil O’Shea. The album out via Rubber Taxi Records offers a blend of hip-hop beats, resonating basslines, and harmonic bliss, often infused with jazz guitar licks played by guest guitarist Jim Burns. Tailored as an overall album experience, each track transitions into the next with smooth subtlety. This music is inventive and complex, yet simple and captivating to listen to. As a listener who almost always finds musical interest primarily in harmony more than rhythm, I respond very well to music with smooth harmonic chord changes; chord progressions are what most easily touches my heart.
ToffoBean’s pieces work within uncomplicated chord progressions, moreover the central tone and pitches, are compelling in the extraordinary range of harmony and improvisation they can find in even a single chord, layering it with luscious instrumentation and vocal or spoken word interludes.
But “Afternoons in a warm embrace” also delivers dynamic action in its rhythms, with beats that support, flank and then lead the arrangement through powerful rhythmic demarcation. The percussive elements combine in each tight and tasty piece to present a distinctive texture and sensibility.
From the moment the first track, “Dust to Deity” kicked off, I was not surprised at how much I liked this album. I dearly love how ToffoBean is able to focus on both rhythm and harmony – and to some extent, its progeny, melody.
Elements that are exulted on “Abide in the Heart” – both for its intrinsic beauty, and as a marker in the evolution of this genre. The following track, “You Always Want What You Can’t Have” is a sultry, smoky groove in which the smoothness will melt you down.
Elsewhere, like on “Let’s Get Lost” and “Hold Onto That Feeling”, the music will put you in a euphoric trance where you can really engage in deep, contemplative thought so rare to find in this attention-deficit, distracting world we live in.
“Need You”, “Kirchwasser” and “Moon Tan” knocked me out, setting mid to up-tempo grooves that thumped me into knowing I was glad to be listening to this. ToffoBean are conceptually brilliant, their fusion of jazz harmonics and urban beats, electronic, and new groove standards, are never pretentious, but always challenging and satisfying.
This is music based in traditional music values with an electronic flair – a musical collage that takes one step back and keeps looking forward at the same time. Unlike some great albums that take time to get used to, “Afternoons in a warm embrace” is immediately intoxicating.
What is presented, is contrast and color throughout. And a lot of that is offered by Jim Burns’ penetrating guitar work, which adds just enough organic spice to keeps thing unpredictable. But there are plenty of other musical pleasures in the 35 minutes of this album, which seamlessly blends into one luxurious aural experience.
It is so subtle and multi-layered that it can literally be played over and over again. A marvellously diverse and entertaining listening experience with chilled out lounge flavors, ToffoBean has created an instant classic here.