Angel Johnson is in a good place right now. Under her moniker, Venus in Motion, she has crafted her masterpiece. The fourteen tracks that adorn third album, Liberation, range from jazz, breakbeat and blues, to soul and house. It lives up to its title too; her tales of freeing oneself from fear, fear of not being the person you’re meant to be will resonate with many, and it’s all delivered in a deliciously downtempo fashion, encompassing all the styles she has soaked up over her 27-year career at the forefront of the dance music scene. It’s an organic, warm collection of grown-up pop music that’s destined to reach a wide audience.
Equal parts introspective songwriter and party-starting bon-viveur, Angel’s heart-on-sleeve storytelling is as direct as the beats she serves up as an internationally acclaimed DJ and producer. She has been wowing rabid audiences since she grew restless working behind the bar at Nottingham clubbing institution, Venus. Not content with flitting around the edges she decided she wanted a go behind the decks. She hired some turntables, learned the craft and three months later whipped up her first mix-tape, which landed her a prestigious warm-up slot on the club’s line-up for New Year’s Eve 1991/92 alongside the venue’s revered residents and Darren Emerson. Word soon spread and Angel’s signature house sound became a staple in the top clubs across the land. Regular slots at The Ministry Of Sound, Shindig Newcastle and The Haçienda followed, where she was famously chosen as the only female DJ at the Haç’s 11th birthday on a massive line-up which included David Morales, Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries, alongside residents Park and Pickering. She had arrived.
Entirely self-taught, it is this driving ambition and absolute refusal to be an observer that has propelled Angel to the position she currently enjoys, as a globally well-respected artist, DJ and producer. Her unwavering lifelong passion for music, and the need to connect with an audience, compelled her to make the leap into music production early on in her career. She honed her skills purely by watching and listening whilst hanging out in studios. As a woman who writes, produces, engineers and mixes all her music, she occupies a pretty unique position; certainly there are alarmingly few visible females within the industry, so she is nothing short of inspirational to others with similar aspirations. She’s a one-woman show who brings in singers and musicians to help interpret her stories.
Venus in Motion’s regular singers Naomi Leigh and Cherry Mars deliver their usual exquisitely sultry tones on Liberation along with new recruits, Tammy Cartwright and Moses Okorotete making exceptional guest appearances. Angel drafted Moses in after eavesdropping on him singing while he was decorating her friend’s house. Columbian guitarist Miguel Ramon and gifted Bass player Keith Bradshaw augment the line-up along with several other handpicked musicians, making it a cosy, inclusive affair.
In these increasingly turbulent times, where our currency seems to be one of hate, it’s refreshing to feel such positive vibes. Venus in Motion’s first two albums, Walking in Limbo and Somebody’s Heaven, are already staple soundtracks to many Ibizan sunsets and Liberation is perfectly poised to join them, injecting a warm, positive feel into the harmonious surroundings.
It’s been a long journey for the focussed, compassionate, self-professed eccentric. The wide-eyed 16-year-old who blagged a fake ID to infiltrate Nottingham’s underground soul and electro scene has metamorphosed into a determined, confident woman. She’s sponge-like in the way she takes inspiration from all aspects of life and works them into the creative process, and with the new album ready to be unleashed, we’re sure to see and hear a lot more of the gifted Ms Johnson.