Don't be fooled by the 4AD connection. South London's Cuba deals in an eclectic mash of guitars and beats that leans closer to the Chemical Brothers than the Cocteau Twins. "Leap Of Faith" is the self-produced debut from Christopher Andrews and ex-Chapterhouse drummer Ashley Bates. They throw various improbable genres and even Fidel Castro himself into an ambitious melange that is a thoroughly invigorating affair.

Not always sophisticated or self-conscious, the slide blues of "Foxy's Den" and the guitar-riffing of "Havana" share a lack of pretence with Apollo 440 and the Grid. The winding groove of "Peak Flow" displays greater subtlety, and "Black Island" conjures up a sense of brooding drama with the assistance of the ever-wonderful Shara Nelson. "Winter Hill" is worthy of the highest praise; the soft vocals of Mojave 3's Rachel Goswell float over a glowing, country-tinged melody and a brass-fuelled crescendo.


"...veering between the inspired... and the predictable... (It's) the moments where Cuba let those cinematic moods wash over them that they truly find their voice."

Like Apollo 440 without their newfound cartoony edge, Cuba are Canadian Christopher Andrews and Brit Ashley Bates - specialise in cinematic, rock-informed dance music. Instrumental, save for choice vocal cameos, these veer between the inspired - Fidel Castro on "Peak Flow", for instance - and the predictable: "Black Island", all rolling hip hop beats and weeping strings, is their homage to "Unfinished Sympathy", not least, of course, because it features Shara Nelson. Better is the loungey '60s-inflected "Starshine",with sugary top line provided by Angie Brown. But its in the moments where Cuba let those cinematic moods wash over them that they truly find their own voice.

By Tom Doyle, Q Magazine (November 1999), 3 stars out of 5

A relatively unknown soldier from the Big Beat wars of 1999, Cuba's Leap of Faith is an excellent representative of both the best and worst that the much-maligned genre had to offer. Thin, watery audio collages like "King of Kelty" and "Hail Mary" are nothing more than album filler, while the corny, horn-y "Havana" looks around for the EMF album it belongs to. On the plus side, the bluesy, almost Led Zeppelinish "Foxy's Den" gets the dance-groove, rock-swagger recipe just right, and the optimistic rap over a telegraphing guitar squall in "Cross the Line" is as furiously catchy as it is predictable.  Ironically enough, the track that least seems to belong here, the sunny, wistful "Winter Hill" (with guest vocals from Mojave 3's Rachel Goswell), is the key reason to pick up this record.

By Bob Michaels,

When 4AD head of A&R Lewis Jamieson heard a two-and-a-half minute song by south London act Cuba he was so desperate to sign them he offered to put his personal finances on the line. "It was obvious from that very rough tape that theyd hit upon some kind of new way of manipulating old sounds", he says.  "And getting a balance between digital technology and analogue instrumentation that I hadnt heard anyone else do".

He was so impressed with Cuba, as duo Christopher Andrews and Ashley Bates call themselves, that he got 4AD to finance two white labels, with the proviso that he would cover any losses. Jamiesons belief in the band was justified when the first white label, Cuba 1, sold out its 500-run pressing in November 1997. In December, 4AD officially signed the band and in February this year, a second white label was issued. Since then, Cuba have released two more singles on 4AD, the 12-inch only "Urban Light" in May and "Cross The Line" in July.

The result has been a queue of major publishers (Warner Chappell and PolyGram are said to be in the running), several would-be big-name managers and the attentions of the press and television. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the bands belief in their talents is solid. "I think were being reasonable in expecting to be the most critically successful band on 4AD since the Pixies", Andrews says. "We want to be its most commercially successful. I think thats possible and I think 4AD believe that".

Jamieson plans a relaxed but steady build for the band. "My ambition for Cuba is for the next single to go Top 75 and the one after that to go Top 40", he says. However, the bands work schedule is certainly not relaxed. Cuba are currently finishing tracks for their debut album and mixing their next two singles, and they are undertaking a series of live dates. The pair recently finished remixing Hurricane #1's next single and last week played a hugely successful Rough Trade night at Colognes Popkomm. This hard-work ethic and quest for perfection drives all Cubas music - their studio work sounds crisp and unique, while the live shows are raw and energetic.

Preceded by two more singles, Cubas album - working title "Death By Cuba" - will be released in February, a half-vocal, half-instrumental work, similar in nature to Primal Screams 1991 "Screamadelica" album. Live, Cubas sound is beefed up with slide guitar, drums and bass, in addition to Bates lead guitar and Andrews keyboard and decks. Ex-Earthling rapper Mau provides live vocals on three tracks and the act are searching for a capable female singer - former Massive Attack vocalist Shara Nelson is highly tipped. According to Jamieson, "The ethos at 4AD is if you sign a band or a musical project and you value it, it should have the legs and the ideas to develop over time".

Cuba certainly look like they have the potential to do exactly that.

By Sarah Davis, Dot Music (August 24, 1998)