Pillowfight

Pillowfight

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Featuring producer Dan the Automator and singer/songwriter/violinist Emily Wells, the trip-hopping group Pillowfight sound like a downtempo throwback to the heyday of Morcheeba, Portishead, and Zero 7. That might be a shorter stroll for Wells' fans, since they're more used to the tempo and temperament of this slinky album, but for Dan Nakamura regulars, there's much less mirth than usual to be had, even less than his work with the Gorillaz. Jump to the breakup number "Rain" ("Broken flowers, broken vases/Crazy glued, and taped in places") and this debut seems perfect for crashing on plush chase lounges placed in the most tasteful of downtown lofts, meaning this is light years away from the "space doo-doo pistols" of Dr. Octagon or anything where Del the Funkee Homosapien could get his shine on. Get past that -- and the out of time feeling that this 2013 release was recorded in the mid-'90s while the Bristol scene was still blowing up -- and Pillowfight feels entirely natural, organically grown by two artists who have formed a fruitful relationship. "I Work Hard" is the slacker blues with the noir cinematics turned up to a Massive Attack level, while "Darlin' Darlin'" ("In the middle of the desert, we made plans/In the middle of the ocean, we held hands") is the kind of mood music you’d expect from a Tarantino film, especially one where Uma Thurman plays someone cursed and heartbroken. If this is the birth of the second wave of Blue Rooms and chillout compilations, than Pillowfight's blueprint is worth preserving, since Wells isn't a chanteuse for hire, but a Beth Orton-type asset, distinct in delivery and identifiable by her rich, smart writing style. Guest spots from turntablist Kid Koala and rapper Lateef the Truthspeaker increase the pressure, but this is one to keep handy when graceful and cool are what's required, since Pillowfight are happy when it rains, and happiest when it mists at twilight.

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