Hugh Hopper

In a Dubious Manner

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Don't turn away simply because In a Dubious Manner is a self-released CD-R, or you'll be missing on one of Hugh Hopper's best releases since Hughscore's Delta Flora. This collaboration with singer/guitarist Julian Whitfield is a mean set of rock songs with a Soft Machine twist and an avant-garde touch. Of course, Hopper is a gifted bass player with a highly distinctive sound, but his songwriting can also be devastating. Tracks like "Bogey Man," "Old Chrome Moon," and "Got Something" rank among the man's very good songs. Whitfield's delivery often brings to mind David Sylvian -- then again, it may only be the loop-laden production giving this impression. Hopper and Whitfield handle bass, guitar, loops, and keyboards. Guest are brought in whenever real brass, drums, or harmonica are required (worth mentioning are Camel drummer Andy Ward and regular Hopper collaborators Robert Jarvis and Jan Ponsford). The arrangements are crowded, full of multiple basslines (including fuzz bass, of course), and sound samples. The album starts with "Bogey Man," a catchy Canterbury-flavored blues-rock. After that track, the first half of the album alternates between moody, often exploratory instrumentals and sharp songs, "Old Chrome Moon" being the highlight of the disc. After the mid-point "Got Something," things become less interesting. The last four tracks' sequence lacks a strong song to put it on par with the first half of the album (although "Wannabe" contains some of the hardest-hitting hand claps you're ever likely to hear). Despite this weaker ending, In a Dubious Manner is a very satisfying album, warmer and less stark than Hopper's two duo CDs with Lisa S. Klossner.

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