The Herbaliser

There Were Seven

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Noir films and their soundtracks didn't exist at the same time as funk music, and both pre-dated hip-hop, but blending them all into a natural-sounding mix is where the Herbaliser's Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba got their start, soul-jazzing up the trip-hop movement and helping define the Ninja Tune label's sound, all in the mid-90s. By 2005's Take London they had evolved from studio wizards into an organic band with horns and guitars wacka-wacka-ing their way into jam band territory with style, but by 2008's Same as It Never Was the whole plot had gone Zero 7, leaving production heads and loyal fans the only ones really “feeling it.” With a live band back, and playing beats that are Humphrey Bogart hanging out with the Roots, There Were Seven (as this is the seventh Herbaliser album) gloriously splits the difference for an impossible neo-noir, boogie-downtown production that captures the feel of heartbreak in the most tasteful of loft spaces (vocalist Hannah Clive burns the house of love down with her torch singing on the Thievery Corp.-ish “The Lost Boy”), or pimps drag racing in stunning Studebakers (check the closing “Move as One” for a winning mix of Mancini, Mandrill, and Madlib). The timeless cool and moody weirdness of the David Lynch series Twin Peaks is a touchstone if you add blaxploitation beats to the mix, and as luck would have it, the Canadian rap duo Twin Peaks -- MCs Muneshine and Ghettosocks -- winds up the album's popular MVP candidate, offering lean rhymes and abstract punch lines on all three of their cuts with “Danny Glover” (“I'm so wise, I won't forget this/Like Danny Glover, I'm getting too old for this shit”) being the one where they absolutely kill it. At 15 tracks, it's a bit too full for newcomers to take in one go, but by mixing the strongest bits of their early days (song structure, smoky attitude) and their later years (technically gifted musicians who form a tight, but swinging band) the Herbaliser return to greatness and no fan should sit this one out.

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