This is a very interesting collaboration between Neneh Cherry and a Scandinavian Free Jazz trio called the Thing.
Those who have only heard the pop/rap/R&B singles of the Raw Like Sushi
era - are going to be very surprised by this album! But before that, Neneh was in a raucous band Rip Rig + Panic
which might give you more of a clue as to where this one is going.
Also, Neneh's stepfather was Don Cherry, who with Ornette Coleman was at the forefront of Free Jazz
in the 1960s. So this album has a track written by each. Coleman's "What Reason could I give" and Don Cherry's "Golden Heart".
So in a way, although this album is a cohesive artistic statement made by 4 musicians - it is also like a summary of Neneh Cherry's life and influences. These lie between Punk, Rap and Free Jazz - so we have songs from the aforementioned Jazz artists, but uniquely they sit alongside songs by Iggy Pop, Suicide and one from Madvillainy [Explicit
However, none of this explains how the album sounds. The Thing are a trio of Sax, Double Bass and Drums - so we have no keyboards or guitars - no instruments providing chords (apart from some brief vibes on one track). The main thrust of the the sound therefore is Ingebrigt Haker Flaten's Double Bass - which is very well-recorded and you can really hear every nuance, every creak and rattle. Bass provides lots of repetitive hooks, which can be quite funky - but are usually dark and moody.
Drums add colour and massive noise! At times it sounds like an avalanche of sound from Paal Nilssen-Love - it is almost overwhelming in its intensity - play the CD loud and it is like an earthquake! Mats Gustaffson mostly adds Saxes Tenor/Baritone and sometimes doubles the bass riff - which makes for a very dark and sparse sound - little to get in the way of the vocals. At other times he simply goes mad with the most dissonant and strangled sounds you can possibly get out of a Sax - when this happens, you can't believe that just 3 people with acoustic instruments are making so much noise!
But there are also moments of supreme beauty here - Neneh Cherry adds lovely melodies to every track and the combination of an acoustic trio allows her voice to really stand alone and be heard. Mostly when it gets into Free Jazz blowing, she stands aside and lets the band just go. But the best moments are when she holds her own with the band and there are some lovely moments when it is just Double Bass and voice together - where each compliments the other perfectly.
I think in fact that most people will be surprised by this album in some way and it may not be completely satisfying for anybody - but it is certainly worth a listen, for those with adventurous ears. Depending on your tastes, you might find youself turning it down or up in parts - the dynamic range is huge - but it all adds to the unique album this is.