Summary"Sunbeam Insulin" is the debut solo album from Brighton based producer Beta Hector, out on 12th September 2011 on Tru Thoughts. A mixture of heavy drums and psychedelic electronic sonics, the album brings a diverse selection of soulful, bittersweet songs and soundtracks, with five vocalists including UK soul queen Dionne Charles and LA MC Shane Hunter.
The man behind Beta Hector is bassist, producer and DJ Simon Hill, a founder member of the erstwhile deep funk band Baby Charles (along with long-time collaborator Dionne Charles) who received rave reviews in the likes of MOJO and Pitchfork for their debut album in 2008, and toured around Europe including Glastonbury festival. With major radio play from Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 1), several sessions for the BBC including Mark Lamarr (Radio 2) and the 6Music Funk & Soul Show, plus heavy international support, they burned brightly in the funk/soul renaissance of the 2000s.
As a producer and multi-instrumentalist, Hill has been making beats and loops since the late nineties, but got a real taste of producing when he co-mixed the Baby Charles album. It wasn't long before Beta Hector was born out of experimenting with heavy drum loops, bass lines, analogue synths, guitars, vintage tape machines, and a range of talented vocalists. The first taste of Hill's solo project appeared on the "Payback"/"Creepin'" 7" single which was released in 2010, in line with the 'Tru Thoughts Funk' compilation. The striking and raw old school funk vibe teamed with crashy drums and whirring synth electro production caught Tru Thoughts A&R Robert Luis' ear immediately, and he snapped up the two tracks as new bonus material for the compilation. The two songs, both featuring Dionne Charles on vocals, were met with a great reaction from the likes of DJ Food, DJ Format and Laurent Garnier, and plans were laid for this exciting new album.
The first single from the 'Sunbeam Insulin' album is "Jupiter Mission", out on 8th August. A disco-inflected track voiced by Hill's sister Jo, with a distinct sci-fi bent - the lyrics are about an intergalactic incident featuring a character called 'serial no.815', and the music was made to suit the vocals and the story using software synths, bass guitar, and percussion. Simon Hill says: "I'll never forget hearing my younger sister Jo rapping along with Debbie Harry on 'Rapture' when I was DJing at a house party about 10 years ago. I remember thinking "cool, one day I'll use her on a throwback disco rap tune."
The retro-futuristic space-age feel pervades through the album. The Afrobeat and dubstep-inspired opener "Hexagon", that nods to Flying Lotus with its oddball 6/4 rhythm and analogue synth recording, slides into the eerie "Sleepwalking" which pairs singer Sarah Gardner's crystal clear voice with a dark instrumental track, inspired by Portishead, Broadcast and the Heliocentrics. A shiny new version of "Payback" features, with the drums re-recorded through ribbon mics, then looped, and the addition of guitar, horns and bongos - and finally, Dionne re-recorded her vocal with even more sass; there's also a more psychedelic album version of "Creepin'". Elsewhere, on "Oracle Bones" and "Thousand Yard Stare" you'll hear the unique lyrical style and ideas of MC Shane Hunter, who found Beta Hector on Myspace (remember that?) and a mutual love of each other's work was born. "Trust Me" brings '60s Ipanema vibes, and Dionne Charles shows her soft side in "Morning Train", a tender, soulful lament. Album closer "The Next Level" is a tribute to the late Ollie Minkley, who played percussion with Baby Charles (among other great bands including The Quantic Soul Orchestra); deeply saddened by his passing in 2010, Hill remembered about an old Baby Charles track on which Ollie had played, which hadn't been used and, he says "it was a pleasure to find and hear Ollie's cowbell and conga parts. I built the music around his percussion, and it just evolved into a kind of seventies kung-fu movie soundtrack, which I think Ollie would have liked."
Simon Hill has DJ'ed since the late nineties and has collected vinyl since his late teens. His sets include a flowing mixture of raw vintage soul, rhythm 'n' blues and heavy funk 45s and classic hip hop 12s, with some tropical and other eclectic grooves thrown in for good measure. He has just formed the Beta Hector Band to take the new album on the road.