MJ Cole Presents Madrugada
MJ Cole notched one of UK garage’s defining anthems with his 1998 single “Sincere.” But Madrugada, released 17 years after his last album, 2003’s Cut to the Chase, is a world away from the bubbly 2-step that made Cole a cornerstone of British dance music. The title translates loosely as “dawn,” but this isn’t the sound of coming home from the club at daybreak: Instead, Cole has traded beats for contemplative piano etudes gently fleshed out with ambient synths and neoclassical strings. What hasn’t changed is his ear for melody; neither has his knack for gracefully delivering substantial emotional payoffs. Songs like “A Visit to Lolita” and “Far Closer” convey vast depths of feeling in the subtlest grace notes; Cole has a soundtrack composer’s instinct for the way that the smallest pause before a chord change can convey widescreen passion. And he has a sound designer’s ear for the fusion of acoustic and electronic textures: The fluttering synths of “Reimagination” sound almost like an amniotic club hit in the making. For now, at least, no beats are necessary; Cole’s vision of a world just before sunup—fragile, hesitant, full of wonder—is complete as is.