Rae & Christian - Sleepwalking
Released: 21 Feb 2001
Arctic Top Track: Vai Viver A Vide
Review by: Rich Pickings - 28th March 2011
As musical shaggy dog stories go, it isn't a bad one: according to the Rae & Christian Wikipedia entry, Steve Christian first met fellow Mancunian Mark Rae in the city's now upmarket Ducie House arts centre, introducing himself by way of pointing out the fact that his future collaborator's music was out of tune. Rae's response - by then the founder of his own record label named Grand Central - isn't contained in the piece.
By the time Sleepwalking appeared the duo were already the owners of a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut Northern Sulphuric Soul, whilst they'd also become go to remixers of choice, having reworked the Manic Street Preachers amongst others whilst famously turning down an offer from INXS. In the process, Rae had dj'd to a crowd of 3,000 ecstacy sodden Australians on an emu farm. Life it seemed was good.
So good in fact that long standing hero Bobby Womack was Sleepwalking's highest profile collaborator, guesting on the prisitinely soulful Get A Life, whilst stretching himself more than he had to on the minimalist Wake Up Everybody. With a fans love of hip hop extending to acts like the Wu Tang Clan, the pair also picked up the phone to LA first generation outfit The Pharcyde, who divided critical opinion via their contributions to the jazz influenced Let It Go and somnambulant breaks of It Ain't Nothing Like. The greatest plaudits however were to go to the effervescent scratch-ups of opener Blazing the Crop and then Vai Viver A Vide, a sweepingly dark alt.Bond Theme which featured Brazilian singer Tania Maria mouthing a dozen Portugese sweet nothings backed with dangerous strings.
With "Chill out" music crossing into the mainstream and the likes of Morcheeba printing their own money, accusations flew however that Sleepwalking was the duo doing just that, snoozing and losing along with all the post acid jazz casualties. It's certainly true to say that there's nothing that ever quite reaches the heights of Northern Sulphuric Soul's best moments, such as the cop show jazz of Time To Shine or the loaded atmospheric rhymes Jeru The Damaja on Flip The Mic. But even though there aren't many beaches in Manchester, this was a record that was designed to leave the listener with a feeling of the sun on their back, or at least of warmer drizzle.