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In late November 2021, I was sent an advance copy of a new compilation released on South African electronic label dO it nOw Recordings. I rather liked it.

Back in 2002, on the Right On Brothers’ underground jazzy house jewel, ‘Soulis’, vocalist Sam Burns wisely proclaimed, with no little conviction, that, “Words can’t touch what soul is”.  Sam The Man was right.

Soul in music isn’t a tidily ring-fenced product of a particular label, artist, producer or songwriter. What’s more, no single generation can lay claim to its mastery. Neither does it lend itself to the crude taxonomic classification we insist on using to bring order to the gloriously disordered world of recorded sound. Soul music is a feeling. It’s either there or it isn’t. On the forthcoming compilation release on 2Lani the Warrior’s thought-leading Do It Now Recordings, it’s most definitely there.

This, the third DIN compilation release under the label’s Tailored for the Soul sub-brand, features ten of the very finest melodic, downtempo, deep house tunes you’ll hear gathered together in one place. As we’ve come to expect from DIN, track selection and sequencing are eclectic and faultless respectively. The shimmering thread that binds all ten mood influencing tunes is coloured a golden shade of soul.

A brace of quality outings from influential Hungarian producer From P60 open this powerful set. On Sarti, bright sax stabs puncture the track’s otherwise head-nodding, jazzy, deepness. Daybreak Vision, the second of the two, adopts an altogether more dreamlike musical stance. Ethereal chords wash wavelike over the polyrhythmic lushness of this wonderfully packaged eight minute slice of contemporary soul.  Subtle, understated vocal interventions of long term collaborator Virág Keszthelyi complete the mood.  The overall effect is the very definition of 21st century cool – setting the tone for the tapestry of tuneage that is to follow.

Vocal led tunes in the form of Broken, Marga Sol’s beautiful collaboration with Darles Flow and J.Axel’s respectful and atmospheric rework of Beamy’s anthemic Twisted Soul, take the emotional quotient up by several notches. Together they signal the high water mark for this soulful set, each serving up a delicate summery, beach vibe and vulnerable affecting vocals. Musical refreshment of the very best kind for all but the most jaded heart.  They certainly take this guy to a better place.

Brazilian production pair André Luchi and Daniel Raizer bestow their trademark soulful Afro house treatment to Kenya and Nemor’s lilting Touch Me Taste Me, and Octopuz takes us back to deep darkness with the layered sonic dreamscape of Around the World. Synthesised, brass elements emerging from the shadows bring a touch of leftfield jazzy soul to this downtempo cut.

Every tune is in its rightful place on this most cohesive of compilations. Nothing jars with the chilled vibe from start to finish.

This year, the South African label that delights in showcasing a sound that can only be defined as indefinable celebrated eleven years of not only doing it now, but also doing it right. This thoughtfully curated compilation exemplifies that ethos.

Thankfully we’ll never be able to distil the precise meaning of soul in music. Long may it remain that way.  What is clearer, is that as the world finally emerges blinking from the pain of the last two years, the need for the kind of music found on this compilation has never been greater. Music with the capacity to drive and to sustain our collective emotional recovery. Tailored for the Soul is forward-looking, optimistic soul music made for the new world order. It is the music for now.

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