Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Thing w/Neneh Cherry: The Cherry Thing

The Thing w/Neneh Cherry
The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound; 2012)
The Cherry Thing Remixes (Smalltown Supersound; 2012)
Neneh Cherry (vocals)
Ingebright Haker-Flaten (bass)
Paal Nilssen-Love (drums)
Mats Gustafsson (sax)

For a group that has already covered Groove Armada, PJ Harvey as well as reconstructing free jazz over the last 15 years in various forms, The Thing teaming up with avant punk, soul wordsmith, Neneh Cherry is really nothing out of the ordinary. Together they have created the poetic, Cherry Thing. And it really demands your attention.

A rustic fusion of love and social consciousness through Cherry's lyrics and The Thing's ability to timely move from gentle to aggressive with superb balance. "Cashback" illustrates this agility with funk and free thinking and harsh lyrical content that knocks you back and keeps you fully engaged. Nilssen-Love, Gustafsson and Haker Flaten cut a crisp and incisive groove that on "Too Tough To Die" (written by Martina Topley Bird). With Cherry at the helm, she and the trio really make the piece their own. Slightly unrecognizable but completely excellent.

The ballad "What Reason Could I Give" beautifully closes the session with shimmering echo treatments on Cherry's vocals with an emotional backdrop of notes by the trio. Lovely stuff.

What better way to follow this superb session than with an equally unexpected but blistering re-interpretation, The Cherry Thing Remixes. Opening the album with the lovely closing number of the original "What Reason Could I Give" is even more haunting with muted and echo chamber piano notes clashing against 80's electro drums. Really turns the piece into a ghostly journey through love and despair.

"Accordion" is fierce with a mixture of pulverizing keyboards and treble effects that later creates a dreamlike atmosphere for a piece that originally hung on Cherry's rhymes. Now, engulfed in anthematic electronics yet still holding its effectiveness. "Golden Heart" is layered with tribal beats and wah wah guitars creating a hypnotic mixture that slowly builds but never overspills. Just as intense as the original but with more of a swirling romanticism.

One of my favourite groups, The Thing continue to do the creative and the challenging with every project. In both The Cherry Thing and The Remixes they have managed to capture the vibe of the avant garde and the dance floor with unbelievable results. These are two richly rewarding projects that should not be missed.

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