's heavily anticipated debut as trip-hop would be inaccurate to an extent, because it truly realizes Steve Spacek
's desire to "bring soul music and R&B up to date." Then again, despite the fully formed song-based nature of these 11 tracks, Curvatia
throws a few too many sonic curveballs into the mix, all of which are subtle, heavy on texture, and too bizarre at times to fall in line with contemporary rhythm & blues. So does Curvatia surpass
modern R&B? No, not necessarily -- again, it's a little too off-center. But it does manage to sound otherworldly and enveloping at the same time. Steve Spacek
's relaxed, velvet-smooth voice is deserving of a lot of positive comparisons to '70s soul vocalists, however it sometimes sounds as if his skills are deliberately downplayed by studio treatments and the mix to best-support the feeling and spirit of the song. In other production hands, Spacek
's voice would forever remain as upfront and unaffected as it is in "Language," but the group has too many sound-related ideas up their sleeve to merely provide a platform for some vocal workouts. Aqua-booty basslines, subtle horn punches, two-note piano half-vamps, tape manipulations, and all sorts of other effects float in and out. Yet, at the end of the day, these are all songs
, not just excursions in rhythmic head music with vocals patched on to hum along to. So think of the best trip-hop records of the '90s and some of the best R&B records of the same period. The screwed-up futuristic soul of Curvatia
belongs somewhere between those two poles.