Record Review - 1 December 30 2004

?With her first two CDs, U.K.-born vocalist Julie Dexter established herself as an artist who makes a highly experimental, often un-catergorizable brand of soul music. Dexter became known for producing aggressive and unpredictable tunes by peppering them with the rhythms of dub, reggae, drum & bass and more. On her latest effort, Conscious, however, she takes an artistic leap in a smoother, more commercial direction.

While it doesn’t feature any of her trademark 10-minute freestyle epics, the album is filled with a bevy of accessible, yet challenging, mid-tempo grooves. Granted, this collection of tunes could easily find a place on any run-of-the-mill “smooth jazz radio station” — but the work presented here should not be confused with schlock like Unwrapped or anything by Waymon Tisdale. “I See Colors” and “Rhythms Daughter,” while radio-friendly, forego the norm by incorporating huge helpings of Brazilian, African and other international rhythms. Other standout tracks include “Choices” — a bass-heavy cautionary tale of lost love — and the moody, ethereal “Like Ours.” Listening to Conscious, Dexter enthusiasts may find themselves surprised by the musical path she’s chosen to follow, but they’ll undoubtedly enjoy the journey.