First Word Records is very pleased to bring you the sophomore album from Werkha, a 14-track double LP entitled 'All Werk Is Play'.
Werkha hails from Manchester and has been releasing music for a decade, collaborating and remixing artists such as Quantic, Bryony Jarman-Pinto, Marcos Valles and Andrew Ashong. Werkha and his live band have been lighting up dancefloors in recent months at venues such as Low Four Studio in Manchester and The Jazz Cafe in London, with festival appearances locked for the Summer at the likes of We Out Here and Moovin. In past years, he has toured extensively with artists like Bonobo, Chet Faker and Mr Scruff.
In 2020, Werkha released 'The Rigour' on First Word, and dropped 'Beat Tapestry' in late 2021 on a limited cassette. 'All Werk Is Play' marks Werkha's first full-length solo project since his debut album 'Colours Of A Red Brick Raft' on Tru Thoughts in 2015, and sees this multi-talented musician produce a delightfully vibrant body of werk.
This album is predominantly a set of uptempo compositions from Werkha (real name Tom Leah), fusing analogue jazz-funk vibes with modern dance music sensibilities. Nestling somewhere between broken beat and breakbeat, Werkha has been nurturing his own unique sonics for some time; incorporating live horns & wind instruments with bass, double-bass, harp and guitar, along with a selection of sweet squelchy synths and deliciously delectable drum programming.
We've had several single releases from this project so far, namely 'Eterno Retorno' (with Portuguese singer Moreiya),'In Saint-Gilles' (with Brussels DJ & producer, Le Motel), 'Move Different' (with Mancunian singer & musician Ellen Beth Abdi), 'Beauty & The Bloc' and 'Battered Mars Bar'. As well as the afore-mentioned collaborations, this album also features bars from legendary MCR MC Chunky (Swamp81 / Levelz) on 'May Day', soulful vocals from Kemani Anderson (Secret Night Gang) on 'Count Yer Pace' and some heavyweight accompaniment from the likes of bassists Nick Blacka (GoGo Penguin) and Tom Driessler (Adele, Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei) amongst others.
'All Werk Is Play' was an opportunity for Werkha to produce a full body of work in the conceptual formation of an album, as opposed to a set of singles strung together. From 'The Rigour' EP to the subsequent releases, this album completes a circle in his current creative curve, from a design perspective and sonically. Werkha has been steadily pushing his own self-production and musicality, embracing mistakes, and challenging himself both creatively and mentally. As a self-edutaining piece, the depth, nuances and examples of work as play are numerous, and whilst each track was thematically inspired by different topics, the fun element of "play" was always forefront in his mind, to ultimately create something powerful, yet positive.
In Werkha's words "this record is dedicated to mixing things up, to walking down that street for once because your feet took you that way, to deciding not to take the bus today, to moments of improv, to breaking with convenience, to challenging structure, to play."
Tracks have received recent spins & support from BBC Radio heavyweights on 1Xtra & 6 Music like Jamz Supernova, Tom Ravenscroft, Huey Morgan and Afrodeutsche, as well as love from selectors such as DJ Paulette, Scratcha DVA, Harvey Sutherland, Zakia Sewell (NTS) & Jyoty (Rinse).
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Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell