Charles Webster

Born on the 24th of July

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Though marketed as an electronic album, house music producer Charles Webster has produced a work that far outreaches the normal bounds of electronica. Webster could be more appropriately called a singer/songwriter -- if he sang. Instead, he recruits the vocal abilities of Del St Joseph, Terra Diva, and Massive Attack vocalist Sara Jay to put lyrics to his dense and moody songs, whose tones are closer to melancholy indie performers like Spain and His Name Is Alive sometimes and soul-riddled R&B at others. Webster does display uncanny studio expertise, creating currents of synthesized bass tones, key washes, and gentle percussion loops which drift around the ankles of the more prominent vocalizations, and, most strikingly, Mark Sheridan's immaculately plucked guitar on "Sweet Butterfly" and "Be No-One." A lonely muted trumpet calls out on "I'm Falling," while the deep pride of "Put Your Hurt Aside" recalls the best moments on Massive Attack's Blue Lines. In fact, this entire collection rests comfortably somewhere between that seminal trip-hop album and the singer/songwriter musings of Beth Orton. Not a bad place to be.