Singer, cellist and producer Izzi Dunn sits modestly at the creative forefront of British soul music. On her finely crafted and spiritually charged new record Recycle Love – her first full-length album in six years - her sound is more refined and confident than before, and steeped in varied influences. Reinforced by first-rate production and strings and horn arrangements, the songs – which speak of strength and determination, heartache and hope – are sophisticated and resplendent, wrapped up and delivered with style and aplomb.
The blistering opener and first single ‘Our Time’ is an uplifting funk missile, punchy, menacing and anthemic, ruminating on postcode wars, societal disillusionment and the apathy of the masses. The full-bodied, soaring, string-laden ‘Look Up To The Sky’ is blissfully spaced out like a classic Mizell Brothers production, punctuated by sharp backing vocal stabs; classy eighties pop-funk gloss imbues the fiery ‘Lady.’ At times the lyrics mirror right-now, real-world news: “Some men wanna watch the world burn” she avers on the combustive ‘Pyro’.
Other songs provide snapshots of myriad other facets of Izzi. Recycle Love, the touching title track is the album’s emotional centrepiece. A wistful, beatless orchestral introduction seamlessly morphs to a spread-out, luxurious, triumphant trip with an abundance of flute, syncopated claps, bounce and groove. The song itself is a pensive examination of our disposable living and our place within that world.
Traversing deeper, the beautifully, contemplative ‘Belong’ – with just the right dosage of melancholy - is built around a rigorous framework of multi-layered strings and speaks to our innate longing to be a part of something more meaningful. The rapturous album closer ‘Don’t Let Them’ is formed of three parts, kicking off with a short, haunting spoken-word piece before the rootsy middle gives way to a celebratory, riotous finale of strings, bass and horns.
None of this is achieved alone: seasoned producer dego (2000 Black/ 4hero) co-helms six tracks, lending his unique brand of tough London funk. British ensemble The Haggis Horns supply rich brass touches to four songs; Izzi’s own acclaimed Demon Strings troupe are also present, adding a final lustre to the powerful productions. Izzi sings with her heart on her sleeve, and doesn’t mince her words. The sauntering, jazz-inflected ‘Devices’ finds the music retreating and her untempered voice coming to the forefront, raw and penetrating. On the short and not-so-sweet ‘All The Things’, a warning shot against avarice and materialism, she casually deadpans: “All the things you used to own, now they own you.”