Rudimental are one of the UK’s biggest bands with a list of collaborators as long as your arm. Sam Brooks takes a look at their best moments ahead of their new album, Toast to Our Differences.
You’ve heard Rudimental, even if you don’t quite know it yet. This UK house band are a mainstay of many a playlist, a club night and a festival line-up. They know how to get your feet moving, your head pumping and your hips doing things that would make your grandmother shake her head. In short: they’ve got the bangers, you guys.
At their best, Rudimental are like an impressionistic painter using their many, many collaborators’ voices as their paint – they throw them on a canvas and see what sticks. The results are beautiful, bringing out different layers and textures in their collaborators. Their latest album is no exception.
Toast to Our Differences, out today, mixes some of pop music’s heaviest hitters of the past few years (Jess Glynne, Anne-Marie, Macklemore, Rita Ora, James Arthur) with the stars of the future (Ray BLK, Raye, Stefflon Don, Raphaella) to create an album that works as both the background to your chill summer BBQ or a warm-up before you and your mates go out for a night on the town.
Ahead of their album, and their headline performance of Splore, here are my five favourite moments from Rudimental across their three albums, and two of my favourite of their live performances. These showcase the range of this band, and some of the tremendous vocalists they’ve collected to make some of this decade’s most memorable house music.
‘Feel The Love’ (live at Capital’s Summertime Ball 2018)
This is the one – the concert closer, the ‘everybody get up off your asses and get on the floor’ one, the thrash your head until your neck hurts song. This is the Rudimental song you know and you love, even if you might not recognise it as a Rudimental song.
Everyone’s a sucker for a drum’n’bass drop, and the way Rudimental builds this song up, and then up, further up, and then gives us that drop that drives any crowd wild. And the trumpets! More songs need trumpets, and it’s a credit to Rudimental’s savvy that they know this, and they throw in all the trumpets.
What’s beautiful about this particular performance is not the song, even though the song is great, but how amped the audience get. The energy is infectious, and it carries through the entirety of Wembley Arena. That’s not just the power of a great song, that’s the power of a great act amplifying it to fill the space, and the hearts of everybody in that space.
(If you want to experience this live – and why on New Zealand’s rolling green hills wouldn’t you? – Rudimental are headlining Splore in February.)
‘Needn’t Speak’ feat. Lianne La Havas
This one’s a deep cut from their second album, We The Generation, but it holds a special place in my heart. It serves as a showcase for another thing that Rudimental does really well – the way they twist and bend a voice to reveal hidden aspects and buried sounds.
Lianne La Havas is a fantastic, underrated vocalist whose own music rests in the new soul movement, but Rudimental brings out the house diva in her. The first half of the song is a chill vibe, but at about the halfway point it drops into a classic drum’n’bass beat, and La Havas’ voice expands and fills the beat out beautifully. Rudimental’s albums are full of underrated tracks like this.
‘Walk Alone’ feat. Tom Walker (BBC Live Lounge)
BBC’s Live Lounge is a test for any artist. Anybody can blow up the charts, and a lot of people can do those big glitzy TV performances, but how do their songs scale down to a more intimate, acoustic scale? In this Live Lounge performance, Rudimental’s chill, nearly meditative ‘Walk Alone’, an epic sadbanger, scales down beautifully.
With strong, growly vocals courtesy of Scotland’s Tom Walker, ‘Walk Alone’ is an addition to the long list of great songs about walking alone (see also: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’, among many others). It shows off another aspect of Rudimental’s huge range within the house genre – yes they can bang and bop, but ‘Walk Alone’ demonstrates their ability to make one of those songs that makes you want to dance slow, by yourself, in your room.
‘Scared of Love’ feat. Stefflon Don and Ray BLK
While Rudimental is rightly known for their bangers, they also know how to capture the specific emotions you feel in an empty club at 3am. You know those feels, they’re ones that Robyn has tapped into throughout her career; the feelings that you bury down when you’re stuck at work at 4:30pm on a Friday but let out after a few Vodka Red Bulls.
Not only do Rudimental capture those feelings in this song, they mix newcomers Stefflon Don and Ray BLK’s voices in a way that make them sound like they’re in conversation with each other and also the listener. Ray BLK is the one who knows how you feel, while Stefflon Don is the one building you up. It’s a song for the late night headphones, and the later night dancefloor.
‘These Days’ feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen
There’s a reason why this song has over five hundred million streams on Spotify: it’s a feel-good hydra with the kind of drop that hits you right beneath the ribs.
Even more than that, it’s a great showcase for what Rudimental does best. These three vocalists aren’t necessarily who you would think to put on the same track, but their wheels-on-gravel voices blend together well, and they give the featherlight track an emotional grittiness that makes it land in your brain. The lower reaches of the top 100 are full of hugely charismatic and talented vocalists who are smushed together in a song that doesn’t showcase them, but Rudimental have mixed the cigarette-laden vocals of Glynne, Macklemore and Caplen together in a way that highlights all three rather than detracts.
‘These Days’ is a highlight of Toast to Our Differences but it’s not alone, with ‘Scared of Love’ and ‘Summer Love’ (with reliable hitmaker Rita Ora) being notable standouts, and you can hear the entire album when it drops today!
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