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Album Review

It makes a lot of sense that Alex Cowan — who goes by TM Juke — is on fellow Briton Will Holland's — who goes by Quantic, among other things — label, Tru Thoughts, and that both have U.S. licensing and distribution deals with Ubiquity, because there are definitely a lot of similarities between the two artists. Both Cowan and Holland find ways to bring live instrumentation into seamless, warm, and organic-sounding compositions that show off the best in electronica, how it can progress and develop musical trends as opposed to stifling them, as is sometimes wrongly perceived. Not that Cowan is just some kind of Holland copycat, however. TM Juke's music is much more soul-, R&B-, and jazz-guitar-oriented than the faster horn-heavy funk and house that Quantic prefers to stick with. He's especially good when working with vocalists (as also evidenced on his full-length release with Alice Russell, who sings here on the funky "So Good"). "Skin," which features friend Naim, is eerie and trippy, with its echoey, layered vocals and keyboard effects, and "Damn," featuring Kinny and probably the standout track on the record, is warm and soulful, with Cowan keeping the beat sparse throughout the verses but adding guitars and keyboards, sampling and looping himself into something that's very full and vibrant, working well for the dancefloor but also pleasing to someone wanting a more "traditional" song. Unfortunately, the last third of the album dies down a little, TM Juke concentrating more on the club-oriented side of electronica, and sounding much more ordinary, but despite missteps like "Electric Chair" — pretty much a boring, unsuccessful Prince cover — Forward still finishes up strongly, bringing in a saxophone, a flute, and almost G-funk keys in the closer, "Pencils for Dolphins," a fast, quirky piece that focuses itself around a poppy guitar riff and plenty of effects. It's fun but not too bright, extroverted while still allowing room for introspection, and above all, firmly displays the talent of the producer and musician who is TM Juke.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Trained on classical and jazz guitar, TM Juke (born Alex Cowan) picked up the sampler as a teenager, partially as a way to annoy his father (who had been insisting that his son take formal music lessons since Alex was seven), and partially because of his love of hip-hop. At 23 he released his first full-length album, 2003's Maps from the Wilderness, on Tru Thoughts. After remixing songs for countless other artists, in 2005 he teamed up with British singer Alice Russell to co-write and produce her...
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Forward, TM Juke
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