Artist: TJ Kong & Nuno dos Santos
Title: After Dark, My Sweet
Cat No: CPT 354-2
Format: CD / Download
Tell me, when was the last time you fell in love with an album? Making you want to hit the replay button as soon as the last song was finished, just to avoid losing that warm glow inside your head?
‘After dark, my sweet’, the fantastic debut by Dutch duo TJ Kong & Nuno dos Santos, will do the trick just nicely. The twosome prove that deep grooves and song structure don’t have to clash with a genuine club feeling.
“Call us romantics, but hasn’t the love been lost from a lot of dance music?” TJ Kong (Erwin van Moll) asks rhetorically. To which Nuno adds “We wanted to bring back some of that love. And we wanted to make an album that’s not limited to the dancefloors”.
In an ocean of formulaic techno, preset house music and festival one hit wonders their eleven track debut indeed is a flashing bright red beacon to hold on to. Music made without any stress or time pressure, which captures all the emotions the duo experienced, be it joy, loss or love.
During the recording sessions, Nuno (who lives in Utrecht) spent a fortune on train tickets to make the weekly journey to Erwin’s Eindhoven-based studio. While the music often came out naturally, finding the right vocalists proved a greater challenge.
One voice was easy: Robert Owens. The American house legend sung their 2008 club hit ‘Merging’ to higher grounds. You’ll find the addictive song in an alternative version on the album. Owens lives in London nowadays, where TJ & Nuno also recorded ‘Where Were You’. The vocals were done in less than a day. “Owens is such an incredible professional”, TJ Kong
smiles. “Before you know it he has recorded 30 vocal tracks…..and they’re exactly what’s needed”.
The boys also tracked down Nigerian singer Nicolette in London. Most people will know from her contributions to Massive Attack’s second album ‘Protection’, but Nuno and TJ mostly remembered her distinguished voice from Nicolette’s ground-breaking album ‘Now Is Early’ which came out in the early Nineties on cult label Shut Up And Dance. Nicolette’s voice has a
bit of Billie Holiday in it and both realized she would fit perfectly alongside the warm grooves of their album. Just listen to the moody mid-tempo disco track ‘Birthday’, or the powerful chords of ‘Something Happened’ and it’s hard to disagree with them. “Like good whiskey her voice might take some getting used to”, explains Nuno. “But after a few listens you’re completely hooked.”
Others might recognize the voice of Jemeni in the spoken words of ‘Once Upon A Rhyme’. The Canadian hip hop poet and radio host gave thousands of DJs a knock on the head with Nick Holder’s ‘No more dating DJs’. Jemeni knew exactly what to do with the pulse from the duo’s machines.
Spunk from fellow Compost band Marbert Rocel opens the album. Her clear, vibrant voice fits like a glove around the quirky sounds and driving percussion of ‘This Time’. “It was a joy to work with her”, TJ Kong looks back. “On some songs we worked for a very long time before we were completely satisfied but ‘This Time’ was done in a breeze.
The final chord of the album stars befriended Eindhoven musician Edward Capel. His melancholic clarinet ends ‘Emerald Bay’, an eight minute dubby groove that sticks to your ears like good ganja.
TJ Kong & Nuno dos Santos have put all their love into ‘After Dark, My Sweet’ (with remarkable artwork by Amsterdam graffiti hero Delta). And it pays off. “I think our secret is our diversity”, Nuno reflects on their successful cooperation. “Erwin is very experienced as a musician. I
learned a lot from him over recent years.” “Nuno knows exactly what works on a dance floor”, TJ Kong bounces the compliment. “And he’s very straight forward. That helped a lot during the recording process.”
What about the poetic album title? “It’s from an old film noir”, TJ Kong (who is a huge cinema buff) reveals. “Hopefully it sparks the imagination of people who listen to our album.” He moves a bit closer when he adds: “And it has that magical element of love in it.”