Album Review: Nickodemus – A Long Engagement [Wonderwheel Recordings; 4th May 2018]

Can you think of a more cosmopolitan, complicated, international, culturally mixed place than New York City? A once-Dutch colony that through the centuries has welcomed migrants from all over the world to become one of the most culturally varied, exciting, fervent cities in the world. From Little Italy to Chinatown, from Harlem to the Bronx, NYC welcomes people from all nationalities, making it one of the most amazing places on Earth.

It’s no surprise that one of the most eclectic producers around – a global sounds crate-digger and founder of a visionary label – is a New Yorker; a Brooklyner in fact. I’m talking about Nickodemus: DJ, producer and founder of Wonderwheel Recordings – home to Populous, Thornato, Chancha Via Circuito and many others – who through at least two decades of experience has created and showcased the best of current world sounds with a modern touch. His latest album A Long Engagement (released on 4th May on Wonderwheel Recordings) is an ode to his city and his personal, long commitment to its music scene.

The first thing we hear is the sound of a metro train passing by and a spray can at work – a dedication to Nickodemus’ musical roots – we then hear a blend of old-school hip-hop beats, desert blues guitar riffs, jazzy saxophone melodies and South American flutes that compose the intricate melody of the first track, ‘A Long Engagement’.

The album comprises of many collaborations with other musicians, rappers and singers from every corner of the world, but mostly NYC based – some of them are part of the Wonderwheel Recordings family. Jumping from an afro-beat groove to an acid house bassline, from the very first second of listening you’re engaged in a world tour. The first stop is naturally New York itself. ‘Will You Still Be Here?’, a super disco-funky groove, features the rapping and choruses of funk-hop band The Real Live Show, and the Pimps of Joytime in a lively track dedicated to producer’s home city.

As the album progresses we move on to Africa; first to the West with a rather classic afrobeat groove, featuring the voice of Guyana-born, Brooklyn-raised singer Jahan Blakkamoore, and next to the North in ‘Mystic Molay where warm desert blues caress our senses, thanks to the contribution of Innov Gnawa, a music collective comprised of Moroccan expats in NYC.

This is just the beginning of our journey. With a track that sounds like the perfect musical bridge between North-Africa and South-America, we move onto ‘Inmortales (Body Move)’, a jumpy, eclectic track featuring The Spy From Cairo (who’s actually from Italy) and the striking flow of Argentinian all-female rap trio Fémina. Nickodemus’ eclecticism explores Andean rhythms, Brazilian carnivalesque percussions, 808 beats and Middle-Eastern melodies, until the second half of the album, which is more dance-focussed and electronic in sound, peaking in the house-reminiscent ‘Music Man’, supported the suave voice of Grey Reverend.

A Long Engagement is like a beautiful, joyous family party. It’s a celebration of life and diversity, of achievements and power of unity; a dedication of love to New York and the sincerest ode to its intrinsically complicated beauty. As the last track closes, the sound of a spray can is back, probably signing this amazingly festive musical portrait of the city that never sleeps.