REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
splendid > reviews > 3/13/2002
The Herbaliser
The Herbaliser
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ninja Tune


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Time 2 Build"

Buy me now
"Funky" isn't the first word that comes to mind when the subject is England. ("Bad teeth", maybe, or "warm beer".) Fighting the good fight is Ninja Tune, a London-based label with a sterling reputation (no pun intended) for releasing some of the finest and most eccentric beat-based music in the world. Something Wicked This Way Comes -- the fourth album from this production duo and live instrumentation posse -- maintains Ninja's tradition of strict quality standards with a surprising, fun slice of jazz-funk. Core members Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry came together as The Herbaliser ten years ago, and in a decade that's seen more than one sea change in the world of electronic music, they've never forgotten that it's songs, not flash, that last.

Something Wicked builds on the group's previous releases, relying less on found samples and more on their own musical constructions, both live and pre-recorded (sampling themselves, in effect). A winning combination of hip-hop beats, horns, strings and cinematic soundscapes (such as the spy-story workout "24 Carat Blag"), the album is spiced with precise scratching and effectively abrupt changes in direction. After a long, lush introduction, "Mr. Holmes" morphs into a lightly jazzy, early-'70s piece of the Blaxsploitation pie; one of the best cuts, "Worldwide Connected", raises in pitch from a nursery rhyme juggle to a powerful symphonic sweep. The closing "Unsungsong" adds a dollop of the blues to The Herbaliser's palette.

With such a compellingly varied backdrop to work with, it's the MCs that steal Something Wicked's show. Dilated People's Iriscience rides the cut-and-scratch cartoon nods of "Verbal Animé", a cut that wouldn't be out of place on Om's groundbreaking Deep Concentration series. With the convincing pyrotechnics of an English Rakim, underground London rapper Blade rolls like a subway train through the twisting tunnels of "Time 2 Build" ("You can have it if you want it / If you want it bad enough / Then you can get it / Don't sweat it just let it / Take control of your soul /And let it roll / As the story unfolds / The prophecy is told"). After a sampled '50s TV introduction ("She's beautiful, she's smart, she's a fighting hellcat, she's dynamite!"), Wildflower's multitracked vocals take over "Good Girl Gone Bad", with a lilting, accent-inflected flow that namechecks Lee "Scratch" Perry and rhymes about the "voodoo that she do". Best of all is the penultimate "It Ain't Nuttin'", featuring veteran KMD rapper MF Doom sporting his usual blunted, free-associative linguistic gymnastics.

Innovative without sacrificing head-bobbing musicality, each moment of Something Wicked is packed with energy, rarely settling into the kind of loping mid-tempo groove that clutters too many of The Herbaliser's down-tempo and trip-hop peers. Like Run-DMC's famous admonition that the definition isn't "'bad' meaning 'bad' but 'bad' meaning 'good'", "wicked" in this case means an angelic mix of all that's good about contemporary music.



REVIEWS:

12/31/2005:
Ladytron

Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber

UHF

The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz

12/30/2005:
Helloween

PTI

The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau

Rosetta

Gary Noland

12/29/2005:
Tommy and The Terrors

Blacklisted

Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

12/28/2005:
The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

12/27/2005:
The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770

Davenport

Beaumont

Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

12/26/2005:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano



Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!


FEATURES:
Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!



DEPARTMENTS:
That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Bookshelf
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo


ARCHIVE:
Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.