'Black is Beautiful' was one of my favourite discs of last year and 'The Redeemer' is shaping up strong in this year's selection. It's a surprisingly slick (these things are all relative...) operation and largely vocal. Blunt's vocals are a hangdog croon somewhere between Tricky and Tinderstick's Stuart Staples(!)
I've decided to take the album at face value - I don't care if there are clever layers of irony, sarcasm, post-modernist reference/comment on modern pop & romance - it's a bleedin' joy to listen to. Dense, melancholic, enigmatic and with tunes to die for - check out the Wu Tang balladry of 'Papi', the boom-bap of 'The Pedigree', the beautiful folk guitar (no, really) of 'Imperial Gold' with Joanne Robertson (The Lighter), the title track's updated trip hop, opener 'I Run New York's sweeping, romantic strings . 'Demon' nicely re-works Kate Bush's 'Sat in Your Lap' with its insistent drums and breaking glass sample. Piano and voice track 'Brutal' is a heart-breaking finale to an LP of emotions running from self-pity to bitterness and anger.
Again, as with the Hype Williams project there is an other-worldly air pervading everything. No-one else makes music quite as alluring and odd (to my ears at least) whether it's using harps, synth-strings or the sound of car horns and breaking glass but the closest precedent would be a stoned Barry Adamson. A record to wallow in and rejoice in equal measures.
P.S. If you enjoyed this LP download Blunt's free 'Stone Island' companion piece which is easily its equal. Unmissable.
Something always bothered me about the music of the trendies - it was always too aspirational. Nobody ever came from (or lived in) a semidetached newbuild house. Not that I ever did either (for more than a fortnight, at any rate) but that isn't really the point. The trendies may like The Redeemer but as far as I can see it's not theirs exclusively, especially not if I like it. My heart and my aspiration are right there in the newbuilds, eggs in the pan on a Saturday morning, peace.
I love the way I Run New York is presented - the strings go from soundproof room to reverbed cinematic sweep as if a dial is being turned - it's a beautiful effect. Then it kind of segues into the electronic strings of The Pedigree. After that it's all heartbreak and candour but you feel that there's a kind of emotional omertà going on - as there is in all heartbreaks. The real ones, anyway.
The car beeps in the track Demon remind me of Edgard Varèse, probably for no reason. Just a really beautiful track - some elements of it might seem disparate (male vocal/female vocal/ disembodied voice/breaking glass/electronic double bass/car beeps/Fairlight CMI style 'voice'/ trumpet) but they're all deployed just right.
It is gone away And I'm still here Yeah Said it is gone away And I;m still here Now I can do my thing Without you near Cause you have gone away Without me there
There's a scientific theory that some level of brain damage is necessary for a healthy brain. Maybe the same goes for having a once broken heart being necessary for a healthy spirit. If you've ever had your heart broken, you might even recognise part of yourself in this record. And even if not, you're getting your money's worth.
Yeah, plunderphonics and all that is fine, but wouldn't you rather listen to a Michael Jackson song than a John Oswald deconstruction of one?
Maybe some of this is 'composed' by Blunt but, apart from the vocals, I get a feeling everything is sampled from others (Kate Bush and Pink Floyd being the obvious spots). Which in itself isn't a bad thing. Pretty lazy but perfectly acceptable.
I'd like a list of all the samples used, then I'd listen to them in their original form/context and see if I prefer this album or not.
Generally, I don't mind artists completely ripping off other artists, especially if they expand upon the original in some way. Most hip hop does it. Take Yeezus as an example. It's got some nice obscure samples on their and although I may prefer them in their original context most of the time, I feel like something new is trying to be forged and their is some kind of craftsmanship. But something at the back of my mind get's irritated at the thought of paying money for something that is sloppily done or lazy, even if i do quite enjoy it.
It's in a weird position because it's kind of highbrow, but not in the dissonant/atonal/noise/experimental camp, and it's a million miles away from being pop proper. Which is great position for it to be critically lauded because it's removed from the elitism/populism dichotomy. Throwing praise on Miley Cyrus' Bangerz or the latest Ferneyhough chamber piece firmly plants you in one camp or the other. This avoids that while having some actual melodies, pleasant tones and stuff.
Saying all that, I like The Redeemer, even with my nagging feelings of high level pretentiousness underpinning the album. Taking it at face value, as if in a vacuum, separate from it's influences and contemporaries, it's an enjoyable listen, but I can't dance or sing along to it so its only getting 4 stars.
I am not familiar with their other output, which seems to amount to three other cds, but this strange cd is captivating in its strangeness. I thought it would be quite cerebral given the album cover - and it is; I still have not figured it our. Well worth a listen if you are adventurous in your listening habits.