Neneh Cherry – Blank Project
Anyone tempted to write off Neneh Cherry as a mainstream pop artist needs to check their history – having worked with a selection of the most respected producers and bands over the past 25 years, including The The, Michael Stipe, Bobby Womack, and notably 3D and Mushroom of Massive Attack; she's been a muse, an inspiration and a vital collaborator in the margins of UK pop, urban music and beyond since the late 80s.
In many ways, this understated, stripped return to the fray is long overdue – and it's no surprise to find her seeking out collaborators with a vital underground pedigree, namely Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, and his regular allies Rocketnumbernine. From the stripped drums of opener Across The Water, Hebden positions Cherry's bold, adventurous, poetic vocals at the luminous heart of a production style that nods to jazz, hip-hop and post-rock; her lyrical concerns addressing motherhood, spirituality and mortality.
Blank Project's title track plays with distorted, Death Grips-like bass hits and driving percussion, Cherry emoting powerfully over the top, her voice more real and vital than any modern pop warbler. Naked's atmospheric trip-hop harks back to her 80s heyday without sounding dated, Hebden's lush instrumental bridge adding a weight to the stop-start beats. Then there are the urgent, chopped guitar riffs of Weightless; the drifting pyshedelic R 'n' B of 422; the frantic techno beats of Dossier; and the infectious pop of Out of the Black, featuring counterpoint vocals from Robyn. Nothing short of a triumph.