As soon as you press ‘play’, Tales From The Land Of Milk and Honey invites you into a colourful world of sublime production, with clever and endearing vocals, where samba, house, R&B, funk and disco all meet and have a good time. But even though these genres are clearly apparent, this is definitely new music. This is the fifth studio album from the groundbreaking Foreign Exchange collective. Two years on from Love in Flying Colours, and eleven years after their debut Connected, the original duo Nicolay and Phonte are joined here by vocalists Shana Tucker, Tamisha Waden, Carmen Rodgers, Carlitta Durand and by producer extraordinaire Zo!
It’s dancing shoes time with ‘Milk and Honey’, a gutsy electro-samba number that sees Phonte accompanied by the coquettish sound of Shana Tucker. The composition slides effortlessly, in both style and technique, into ‘Work It To The Top’ – a fresh track that nods at 80s funk, evoking the energy of a Cameo number. The tone mellows down on ‘Truce’, an honest reflection on relationships, as it does on the charming ‘Sevenths and Ninths’, which plays on the idea that the special quality of such chords should be used in romantic expression.
‘Asking for a Friend’ stands out for its originality, danceability and sheer humour. On this funk offering – reminiscent of LFO and Talking Heads productions – Phonte is a propa English gentleman who discusses his work ethics versus the notion of partying. We get to hear more of Phonte’s vocal abilities on the smooth duet ‘Body’, and on another gem, ‘As Fast As You Can’ – a dreamy electro-soundscape, offering lush harmonies and melodies alongside Carmen Rodgers.
The penultimate piano ballad ‘Face in the Reflection’, a delicate and mature reflection on self-awareness, leads us briefly into the gospel realm, before ending with an uplifting, uptempo soul piece ‘Until The Dawn’.
Whilst relatively short, this is an album that ultimately leaves you with the sensation of having been on a journey. Tales From the Land… with its classic yet experimental composition slant, sees the group reinforce their committal to variance, having produced art for – and from – the present.