Sunday Longform: The V4 Visions Label

V4 Visions

Numero Group has faced the challenges of COVID-19 with aplomb. Although physical releases have slowed, they’ve upped their digital game, discovering labels worthy of rediscovery and offering the world superb music they might not hear otherwise. And while we hope for the day when we can excitedly get this music in physical format once again, we’re happy with the job they’re doing. Case in point: their recent releases from the British soul label V4 Visions. Though the label existed for only a brief moment and released less than two dozen records, what they lacked in quantity and longevity, they more than made up for in quality.

We were quite impressed with the samples we heard, we simply had to pick up the entire catalogue. Take a listen to the samples below and we’re sure you’ll agree—they released some fantastic music. The label would launch itself with a fantastic compilation Things 2 Come, which featured the label’s roster, Listening to it, the label promised much and for the most part delivered on this early promise.

 

Trevor James Ashaye had a modest career before signing with the fledgling label. Looking at V4 Vision’s discography, one notices that Ashaye seems to be their flagship act. With five singles and three songs on the label’s introductory compilation Things 2 Come, it’s clear they had high hopes for the young talent. And rightly so; Ashaye understood how to write a fantastic song. (Of his songs featured in the Numero release, only one song, “Never Let You Go,” fails to impress.) 

Consider his 1991 offering, the anti-war/call for peace anthem, “What’s This World Coming To,” a fine soul number that feels like an updating of Marvin Gaye’s finest work. And dig the sweet instrumental version on the flip side of the single, because it shows you how masterful he is with a groove.

Jump to 1994. V4 Visions may be coming to an end, but Ashaye leaves them with a superb offering, the 12” “Dreaming,” a most promising single. The two versions differ radically, but impress equally. The “Jungle Mix” offers a dreamy version that reminds us of A.R Kane with a jungle beat. The original version, however, sounds much different; think Michael Jackson’Dangerous soulful hip-hop. The Michael Jackson comparison fits, considering Ashaye started his career by covering Jackson. Same coin, different faces; “Dreaming” should have been an introduction to the world of a fine talent. Unfortunately, this would be Ashaye’s final release. A pity, that.

Julie Stapelton also should have been an underground diva. Her debut single “Where’s Your Love Gone” has the makings of a club hit; the remix features a dark, ominous electronica background that reminds us of Moby. The “New York Mix” is good, but pales in comparison, as does the original version, found on Things 2 Come. B-side “Just Dreaming” is a lighter pop number, with Stapleton’s voice shining over an easy, laid-back groove. A bonus track, “All The Way,” brings In Ashaye singing duet, and features some gorgeous acoustic guitar playing. One’s reminded of Beth Orton’s soon-to-be popular blending of electronica and folk, and it’s amazing this song languished in the vaults for so long. Aside from singing backing vocals here and there, she’s seemingly disappeared as well.

Endangered Species served as the house (ahem) band for the label, being as it was the project of label founder Chris Forbes. Their sound blended jazz, house, and hip-hop in a really satisfying way. Though they only released a handful of things, the offerings here are cherry-picked from the best of the lot. “Endangered Species” is a piano-driven instrumental that reminds us quite a lot of the British band Working Week, while “Just A Memory” offers up fantastic house groove.

Gospel/harmony group The Wades had been around for a little bit when they signed on for their 1993 single. With a distinctly American R&B sound, you might notice that their sole release for the label, “Get Off That (Poison),” sounds mightily familiar. That’s because the song is, in its own informal way, a response/rebuke to Bel Biv Devoe‘s classic, “Poison,” though with a much more positive message.  Unlike most of the label’s acts, they would find more success later, continuing on into the new millennium. Their EP featured a handful of contemporary-minded remixes, but the lead version is the standout.

But obscurity befell the last offering here. Maureen Mason had been a member of modestly successful hip-hop/pop group Tongue N Cheek, before deciding to go solo. Unlike the other acts here, Mason didn’t actually release anything on V4 Vision. She appeared on their label compilation More 2 Come, ostensibly intended as a way to introduce new acts. But the label folded before any of those singles appeared, making the comp title an ironic twist. Yet her two offerings, “I”m Believing In Love Again” and “If This Is A Dream,” show what might have been. With a style reminiscent of Cathy Denis or Ce Ce Peniston, her pop/hip-hop style satisfies the sweetest tooth. Yet like so many of her label mates, she simply disappeared once the label folded. A shame, that.

V4 Visions may have disappeared almost as soon as it appeared, but they released a handful of great music. I picked up the digital discography on Bandcamp Day for a cool low price. It’s worth it, too; this is a reminder of the place music was before “grunge” came around.

More Info: Numero’s V4 Visions Bandcamp

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