Some electronica producers spend their entire careers building up a roster of instruments, legions of samples, and more gear than any bedroom studio could possibly fit. Jamie Lidell has apparently been reducing not only his equipment list to its basics, but his production style, so it includes a minimum of things that you need to program (much less plug in). Of course, that jives with his gradual blossoming as an unhinged soul singer on 2005's Multiply, which has only blossomed further for 2008's Jim, a neo-soul record that sounds like it was recorded live, in the kind of studio that each of the album's seven to eight musicians actually could fit into. Part of this is the result of Lidell and co-producer Mocky's ability to record so well that the production doesn't stand out by itself, but simply works as a vehicle for the songs. On a performance level, Lidell mostly avoids the pitfalls of Multiply, where he sounded faithful but not always sincere. On Jim he's not only writing better songs, but performing them as though he's lived them (this is where a good hands-off production can improve the proceedings). It doesn't really matter whether Lidell's rebirth as a soul singer is an example of an artist following his muse or simply looking for a way out of electronica, when the results motivate your body as well as "Out of My System" or move your heart as well as "All I Wanna Do." Jim is most reminiscent of the Southern deep soul of the late '60s, although recorded so well (and so dry) that it betrays its lineage. That sound is a good complement to the other British soul stalwarts with retro-soul and -funk leanings, from Lewis Taylor to Jamiroquai tothe Cinematic Orchestra (and, for that matter, including Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse as well). Add to that an assortment of unobtrusive guests (including Nikka Costa, Gonzales, Peaches, and Alex Acuña) doing great work, and the result is a record that reveals soul and sincerity.