Fur – Soon at the Latest review

It took them a while, but they made it in the end. And they’ve done good.

Soon at the Lat­est is the debut album from Fur, an eight-piece hip hop-jazz col­lec­tive from east Lon­don. Sim­i­lar to the music of Bad­Bad­Not­Good or El Michels Affair, this an album cramped with ver­dant instru­men­tals for late nights and crosstown jour­neys. It’s cheeky, it’s charm­ing and it’s wild­ly refreshing.

Josh Sol­nick (aka Rap Man Josh) is Fur’s MC, and he is your loose-tongued guide through their height­ened real­i­ty. “Plum fresh, lips fresh / Heart skipped, tip­toe… Oh, this is where heav­en is… every time I kiss her I almost fall over…” Solnick’s descrip­tive verbs and phras­es bring entire scenes alive, tak­ing you down to the city streets to meet would-be lovers (‘Bian­nu­al Cof­fee Cups’), beneath the canopy of fes­ti­val tent rap jams (‘Ulti­mate­ly’), and spar­ring with the politi­co (‘Free’). Cheeky like The Phar­cyde meets Mar­vel Action Hour, his rhymes sound like the work a street-smart soci­ol­o­gist who reads every­thing from The Killing Joke to Orwell.

But don’t take that to mean Fur make “high-brow music”. Soon at the Lat­est is as intel­li­gent and acces­si­ble as any­thing from Bad­Bad­Not­Good or even Kendrick Lamar’s jazz-influ­enced To Pimp a But­ter­fly. Com­posed and arranged by drum­mer Ben Assiter, key­boardist Greg Sanders and com­pa­ny, this whole album is a neat­ly-wrapped gift to jaz­zheads. There’s many a hyp­not­ic out­ro (‘Please For­give Me’). There’s a stu­pen­dous sax solo on the equal­ly stu­pen­dous ‘The Rap­man’. And, whether the mood is steamy (‘C’est L’amour’), solemn (‘Cat­women’), or jazz for a smudged sun in the ear­ly morn­ing (‘Tell It to the Vast’), the sense of atmos­phere is sharp throughout.

Fur owe plen­ty to their for­bear­ers: from Roy Ayers to Quest­love, and the Phar­cyde to MF Doom. Yet next to noth­ing on this side of the Atlantic sounds quite like them right now – with the mild excep­tion of Loyle Carn­er. This is hip hop with cheeky soul. This is con­tem­po­rary jazz with old-school cool. Most of all, though, Fur nev­er try to be any­thing oth­er than what they are: a bunch of badass musi­cians mak­ing music that moves them and you.

Soon at the Lat­est is out now on Soul Rub Records.

[This review was first pub­lished on aaronlee.co.uk, Oct 24, 2016.]

Image: Fur/Soul Rub/Facebook