on 24 February 2014
This may be Neneh Cherry's first solo album in over 16 years, but I guarantee you she's been more active as a collaborator and producer since the mid-1980's. Now it's come around to her turn to step up to the mike, and she's dropping the new album "Blank Project," which sounds more like an experiment than album.
Neneh's first album "Raw Like Sushi" exploded out of the gates back in 1989, and although the record labels she's been with wanted more pop-friendly, she was one of the few artists to have kept it real and produce more wonderful music than any of her counterparts since. She has gone on to collaborate with an amazing array of world artists in many different genres, and has always been busy, but this is her time, and this is her current vision.
This album has quite the pedigree in terms of help - it's a cross-collaboration with longtime friends RocketNumberNine, with acclaimed producer Four Tet at the helm, and featuring a guest appearance by Robyn - and as an album, it pounds out of the speakers with an amazing bit of one or two mellow jams mixed in with hard house beats and amazing words.
The music itself seems to be a couple of drums and a few synthesizers to assist her, but they compliment each other so elegantly. It's tribal on one end and modern and jazzy with fresh beats on the other. There are tracks here for everyone to enjoy. Not bad for a 10-track album that was recorded and mixed over a breezy 5-day period.
Here's my 5 second review each of the songs on the album:
01. Across The Water - the mellow bump of Neneh's tribal drums versus her jazz riffs about what really goes on in the night is a classy tribute to her stepfather, jazz legend Don Cherry. She reaches across the Atlantic to reach for her roots in New York City, and travels quietly to and fro, back to her adopted country in England.
02. Blank Project - this song comes out at you with an aural assault with hard drums and harder lyrics, and the story is as old as time itself - you have me and I have you, but what about the compromises, what about the battles? Life, like love, is a blank project, and we hold the brush.
03. Naked - Neneh channels her inner world beats self by explaining where her head is: she's naked and ready for whatever's out there. The music sounds a little familiar, but in her hands she manipulates and reaaranges the sounds for her benefit, and this is one of the more fun tracks of this serious project.
04. Spit Three Times - in this song, her fears of what is bigger than her creates within her superstitions, and she fears falling, and instead of knocking wood about what she wants gone from her life, she spits three times and walks away. At least for now...
05. Weightless - crunchy synths complement her amazing voice the best in this song without overpowering her (too much), and she wants to be graceful and wonderful but it's not working very well. This song is just one of the best and the most catchy of the album.
06. Cynical - it starts off a little incomplete, but glides right into the most urgent messages Neneh put on the album itself. As she says very clearly here, "Don't think I'm so cynical now, I've found my sound." And this is a sound with noting, as it's a genre and message she's not only comfortable with, but she's celebrating.
07. 422 - what is the meaning of this song? Does it matter? There's a message, but I'm just going with the flow at this point. Her riffs are clean and flawless, and it may sound heavily orchestrated, but the music is so simple, and her voice floats over it so easily. I feel a bit of a Bjork vibe here, as it breaks all traditions of what could be called "proper music," but her vision is clear here. I hope you can feel it too.
08. Out Of The Black (featuring Robyn) - this song is the one I think they spent the most time making sure it was done 'just right.' Robyn and Neneh's voices blend magically, and although the music is a bit minimal, I am so glad it's not a manufactured bit of pop crap. The song is worth a second listen, and very much a fun track! It grabs at you and doesn't let go.
09. Dossier - boy gives girl number, girl loses number, girl finds number, calls... and all of a sudden this song becomes an explosive thing all to itself, as it seems to go on and on and on. Choices are strange, and sometimes random, and can become something greater than the message. This song is a perfect punctuation to that.
10. Everything - sampled voices, cold beats, and Neneh traps her version of the sounds of the streets and the voices that are everywhere, and with that she wonders if everything really is everything if it's so here and there? Can you grab it all, hear it all, think it all? She seems really good with what she misses and goes with the flow, and I think that's all she's done the whole time.
In the end I'll have to give Neneh 5 healthy stars.
The album is inventive, not dated, the beats you keep you listening, and if you're into what I can only throw out there as "superjazz" vocals mixed with world beats, then she's the gal for you, and this album is a must-buy for you as well.
She has been traveling in new directions for over 10 years, and in 2012 her jazz fusion collaboration "The Cherry Thing" with Norwegian/Swedish group The Thing was a hit, but many thought this might have been the closest they would ever get to a "solo" type album by her.
Well, this newest album does not disappoint, and you will not be either.
(thanks for reading, please leave a comment or a thumbs up [or down], and don't forget to read my other reviews of many other diverse artists!)