The south London jazz artist follows his debut album Dark Matter with a mix of solo recordings
Moses Boyd’s name is often uttered in the same breath as four words: “London’s new jazz scene”. The south London drummer, producer, and composer has been a key collaborator with the city’s jazz community, performing on records with artists like Nubya Garcia and Sons of Kemet, not to mention any number of live collaborations. He’s also created some of the scene’s biggest anthems, like “Rye Lane Shuffle” and “Drumming”, a collaboration with gqom artist DJ Lag that was later reworked by Beyoncé as “My Power” for her The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack album.
Boyd’s debut album, Dark Matter, sees the artist take on more of a role of a producer and band leader than just a jazz musician. Its tracks are less the product of free improvisation and more an ongoing process of writing, producing, and fine-tuning. In parts the album has the frenetic rhythms of an Aphex Twin or Björk record, the swing of Afrobeats and 2-step, and the influence of jazz and funk. Along the way, he brings in friends like Poppy Ajudha, Joe Armon-Jones, and Obongjayar to help bring it to life.
Boyd is also a DJ – he previously hosted a residency on BBC Radio 1Xtra – and has put together our latest Dazed Mix, which showcases a variety of solo recordings by other artists (“solo piano, sax, or vocal”, he says) and combines them with his own track stems. Take a listen – and learn more about the meaning of Dark Matter below.
You recently released your debut album, Dark Matter. You’ve been pretty prolific over the years, so the question is – why now?
Moses Boyd: Now felt like the right time. Over the years, I’ve put out other projects and worked on various things with/for other people, but now feels like the time to make some noise properly on my own.
Was there a specific catalyst for the record?
Moses Boyd: Time, really. I’ve had a lot of time to experiment, create, travel, and live life, all at once. I’ve been touring and gigging for years now, so in many ways I never felt anyone was waiting for me to have something ready to go. That gave me the freedom to experiment and try things out on my own time and present it the right way when ready.
What does the Dark Matter title mean to you?
Moses Boyd: There were a lot of dark things going on around while creating this record: Brexit, the Windrush scandal, Grenfell, Trump’s Muslim ban, to name a few. In a strange way, all of these events kind of united anyone with a good conscience. ‘Dark matter’ is a material that cannot be seen directly, but we know that it exists because of the effect it has on objects we can observe directly. To me, the title Dark Matter is a metaphor that uses our everyday situations – our dark matter – that we all experience but may not be able to explain to unite us and hope for change.
You’ve said that the album shows you as more of a producer than as a jazz musician. What do you mean by that?
Moses Boyd: I think I do more production on this album than I do improvisation. That was intentional. I love improvising, but it wasn’t what I was going for in this. I was trying to reach for something different, like a sound I knew that lied beyond the improv. I wanted to create a feeling and a tone across the record that would require me to step in more as a producer.
You’ve worked with Poppy Ajudha, Joe Armon Jones, and Obongjayar on the album. How did they get involved?
Moses Boyd: Very naturally, really. All of those guys I knew would work on their respective features. These are my friends who I admire and love what they do. I think sometimes you can reach your limit with a song. With all the features, I felt I couldn’t say any more, musically, without enlisting help.
How has your creative process evolved over the course of making the album?
Moses Boyd: It’s a lot more open. I think I’m more concerned with finding sounds that make you feel something, and less concerned with how and where they’re made.
You’ve made our new Dazed Mix. What can you tell us about it?
Moses Boyd: I’ve been getting into a lot of solo music, whether it’s solo piano, sax, or vocal. So I wanted to do a mix that incorporates some stems I have in my archive as well as solo records in cool ways.
Are there any other artists you’re excited by that you want to shout out?
Moses Boyd: Shout out to Rarely Always, Oddboy Ten, Loraine James, Werkah – so much good stuff out at the moment.
What will you be doing after the release of Dark Matter?
Moses Boyd: I’ll be heading on tour across Europe and the UK from Feb 24 and ending at Brixton Electric March 12.
01. Bulgarian State Choir, “Polegnala E Todora (Love Chant)”
02. Paper Tiger, “Rogue Planet”
03. Paleman, “Talk Louder”
04. Coby Sey, To”
05. Milford Graves, Unknown
06. Sipho, “Prom”
07. Kamikaze, “Ghetto Kyote”
08. Sampha, “Reverse Faults”
09. Bakura, “Thinking About” (Domu Mix)
10. Cymande, “Bra”
11. Dudu Pukwana, “Madonna”
12. Tom Brown, “Throw Down”
13. Moses Boyd, “Rye Lane Shuffle” (Ben Hauke remix)
14. Solo sax from the archives
15. Aphex Twin, “Xtal”
16. Damon Locks, “Rebuild a Nation”
17. Billy Boyo, “One Spliff a Day”
Moses Boyd’s UK and European tour begins at Hotel Cecil in Copenhagen, Denmark on February 24