2013 is simultaneously the best and worst time for intelligent R&B, and you can be sure that Inc. are well aware of this. Despite the stars aligning for the release of their debut album – a record deal with the iconic 4AD; the peaking popularity in revivalist rhythm and blues; the kind of backstory that would make old school fanatics’ heads explode – No World may well be the most overlooked release of the year.
Soft synths, smooth vocals, fluid bass work – it’s no wonder Inc. found themselves unfortunate targets of many an overzealous comparison, but to use No World as an excuse to play ‘guess the influence’ bingo is to miss the point. Contrary to the opinion of critics, it’s not Prince or Sade these brothers call to mind, but fellow 4AD signees Gang Gang Dance, a band whose preoccupation with R&B is similarly sacred as opposed to secular.
Indeed, these eleven tracks don’t simply go through the motions. Rather, their strain of rhythm and blues shoots for the instinctual, transcendental origins of the genre. Gospel is an obvious touchstone, with an encouraging sense of communalism floating on top of the mix during the likes of ‘The Place’ and ‘Lifetime’. Even more arresting is the sprawling ‘Desert Rose (War Prayer)’, which builds to a cathartic climax in its nod to middle-Eastern spiritualism.
These brothers may have been session musicians for the likes of Elton John and Cee Lo Green, but No World is a record distinctly their own – effortlessly agile, born out of struggle but always looking upwards for inspiration.