Natural Self's new album, My Heart Beats Like A Drum, represents a bit of an evolution for the artist - with a more mature, emotive sound than previous work it feels like there is much more colour to this record. The overall impact of the album is improved by the inclusion of guest vocals, provided by French vocalist Elodie Rama. It's an approach that undoubtedly works - adding colour and variety to an album that only really falls down when it stops changing.
There is a good chance you may not have heard of Natural Self and if this is the case then for your benefit he is Nathaniel Pearn and he produces laid back, soulful, rhythm based music. Much of it is instrumental and there are times when the music shines enough to warrant the space. The Cuban summer jam of 'Days Get Brighter' for example, or the drowsy 'Even Planets Get Lonely' - a track that sounds like it is literally buckling under the strain of staying awake in the midday sun.
The problem with all the instrumentals is that, taken together, they do not feel distinct enough to the casual listener to ensure engagement. A shame, given that they are generally pretty good. What saves My Heart Beats Like A Drum are those vocal tracks, fulfilling a palate cleansing role and throwing in a bit of spice to make thing just that bit more interesting.
There may only be three tracks with full vocals but they play a vital role in giving the album life. Of the three it is actually Natural Self's own delivery on the bluesy 'Every Day' that shines the most. Packed with bags of space and feeling it feels like a dip in the pool compared to the dry heat of some of the instrumentals here.
My Heart Beats Like A Drum is an album full of beautiful timing and textures and it will create a perfect soundtrack to lazing in the summer sunshine. A few more vocal cuts and a bit more variety could make Natural Self's next album great - in the meantime this one will simply have to settle for being rather good instead.
My Heart Beats Like A Drum is released on Tru Thoughts on 19 October 2009.