SOUNDS TO WATCH IN 1998

FINLEY QUAYE

A MULTI-talented singer, musician and DJ, 23-year-old Finley Quaye has shot to stardom in the past six months.

His relaxed, soulful reggae immediately struck a chord and his first single, "Sunday Shining", stormed straight into the top 20. "Even After All", his second release, hit the top 10, and his first album, Maverick a Strike, was released in September and went gold within three weeks - reaching number three in the British charts.

Quaye's musical influences are diverse, blending soul with reggae, dub, jazz and rock, reflecting his varied background. His family come from Ghana, but Finley was raised in Edinburgh, London and Manchester. "I've got real inspiration," he explains. "I've got a vision in my head of my tribe in Ghana, of a tradition of demonstrating to each other with music, drums and voice."

Quaye sings with an intimate, almost fragile quality, hardened by the occasional growl in his vocal chords. His talent was recently recognised when he was named Best Newcomer in the Q Awards and he is a hot tip for next year's Brit Awards. His new single will be released in February. AIR THIS HAS been a good year for French music. Daft Punk romped into the charts and DJ Dimitri from Paris funked dance floors with his kitsch disco house. Now Air (aka Nicolas Godin and Jean Benoit Dunckel) are waiting in the wings with their leisurely, ambient post-house music.

Air's music isn't the only leisurely thing about them. In the past two years they have only released three singles, "Modular", "Casanova 70" and "Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi". Their debut album, Moon Safari, is therefore a bit of a surprise. It's a carefully constructed journey through mood changes, rushes and post-club come-downs, drawing on influences from dance, rock, and classical music. Dunckel studied classical piano and Debussy at the Conservatoire in Versailles.

Comparisons aren't easy. Think Portishead production qualities, Delta House of Funk ambience and Massive Attack eclecticism - except its references are French. Space and silences are used with scientific precision, building to washing strings and nudging funk inspired bass lines. Moon Safari is released in mid-January. ADAM F DJ ADAM F has been taking his time and building his reputation among underground drum 'n' bass circles. Now, having secured the admiration of those in the know, he's moved on to a major record label and is ready to make his mark.

Adam F appeared on the drum 'n' bass scene in mid-1994, when he released his first home-recorded single, "Criminal Active", on Section 5 records. It immediately attracted the attention of pioneering drum 'n' bass DJs Fabio and LTJ Bukem.

His next four singles in 1995 established him as a leading figure in underground dance circles. Combining jazz licks with Seventies funk influences (he used to sing with a funk band), and thundering percussion and drum loops, Adam F crosses musical boundaries without losing his identity.

In 1996 he was badly injured in a car crash, and was out of action for three months. Since his recovery, his career has been on a steady build and his recording of "Metropolis" won the 1997 Muzik award for best drum 'n' bass single. His sublime debut album, Colours, has just been released. SKINT SKINT record label already dominates the big beat scene. Now, with the ink drying on a deal with Sony, their beat is poised to get bigger.

The label was formed by Damien Harris (aka Midfield General) when he became frustrated with making house and began recording dance music that reflected his own culture. The result combined hip hop, house, dub and rock. Meanwhile, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) was producing a similar sound, so Harris approached Loaded Records and secured funding for the first Skint release, "Santa Cruz" by Fatboy Slim, in 1995.

Since then Skint have built an impressive roster of artists, including The Lo Fidelity Allstars, Cut La Roc, Bentley Rhythm Ace and Hardknox. Experimentation is core to the Skint sound. "Modern technology means dance music is so easy to make," explains Harris. "So, we look for people who are coming from a different angle, rather than pushing out formulas."

Damien describes the Sony deal as "selling our soul to the devil". In fact, Skint will maintain its independence. The third Skint compilation album is released in February.

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