Grand Central Records – 2001 – 51 mins

Manchester's Grand Central crew have carved out a successful niche as producers of low-key, atmospheric hip-hop, with acts like Rae & Christian and Aim using the DJ's vocabulary to create sophisticated, and often poignant, beat symphonies.

The label's latest release, 'Beats Du Jour', seems like a different animal at first. Squelchy and discordant electro drives the opening track 'Take Control', which is so atonal and left-field that it sounds more like a refugee from the bleep-addicted Warp label than a silky-smooth Grand Central release.

So, having jolted our perceptions, 22 year old Henry Smithson, the man behind Riton, settles down into a familiar and impressive groove. 'Let Me Be Mine's cascading piano and soulful vocal (from Haydn Ruffley of Bamboo Soul) combine to create a genre classic, and from there on in, 'Beats Du Jour' is a delight.

There's still time for some old-school electronica: 'Habib' rocks the slap-bass and cheesy synths in a passable Rhythmes Digitales impersonation. Smithson shows he has a few tricks up his sleeve with 'Frambuesa', a housey exploration that Faze Action would kill for, while the shuffling beats, minor-key chords and familiar breaks of 'Put That On My Momma' combine to produce a spacey classic.

In Smithson, Grand Central has discovered an enviable talent. High-brow homeboys will look high and low to find a better headphone filler than Riton.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Take Control – Departure - C Communicated - Let Me Be Mine - Just Enough (Skit) - Initial Problem – Hebib - Fallout (Skit) – Motion – Frambuesa - 12cm Disco Edit (Skit) - Put That On My Momma - Hungry Ghost