For those of you who are wondering (still? this must be your first time here, so, welcome!) what is this album doing here on a “trip-hop blog” I have this to say: the facts that trippin’ the rift is my blog and Shine‘s Guillaume Simon is my Facebook friend have something to do with it, yes, but they aren’t the defining factors. I did refuse reviewing my friends’ releases in the past and will do that in the future, if they don’t fit. How does this one fit, you ask? See, if I were a strict stickler to the “trip-hop and nothing but” rule, we would end up only with reviews of Dusted Wax Kingdom releases and drool mixed with tears of sadness reminiscing of the early Portishead and Massive Attack. Who needs that? Shine – Judas and Mary belongs here just as much as, say, Amon Tobin – ISAM or anything DJ Shadow produced since Endtroducing.…. Utter darkness isn’t a mandatory requirement for “trippy music”, otherwise Nightmares On Wax or Morcheeba would have never been associated with trip-hop. And speaking of Morcheeba – the trip-pop pioneers’ influence on Shine‘s sound is still evident, even though the band traveled a great distance in style since their 2007 debut The Common Station. Judas and Mary couldn’t have been release at a better time – it came out on March 7th (and this is when my review was supposed to appear as well), a day before the International Women’s Day and would have made a cute little present for your loved one. It’s a very Spring album – filled with love, brightness, hope, as well as gentleness of that first green leaf and a few notes of melancholy immanent to the change of seasons. And to me (for obvious reasons) those little droplets of clear and cleansing sadness are the finest moments of the album. It starts with one of them – the title track is a sensual downtempo ballad that is not much about the story it tells as much as about the feelings, thoughts and things that are often left unsaid – the song takes time to explore these things, by draping Julie Gomel‘s soft vocals into airy, intricately constructed blanket of sounds. And the album ends with another quiet moment – “Et après?” is a jazzy instrumental essay, a live and changing image of… something, you can really let your imagination run wild to this one, just close your eyes and listen to all those instruments there (boy, I gotta say, they sure now how to work those live drums), it isn’t an illustration that answers questions, it’s an abstract painting that is asking them. And then there is the gorgeous “Où est-elle?” with its alternating waves of crystal quietness and dark intensity, like looking through a window of a ferry and seeing this water in spring – running free of winter ice but still cold and dark, and you feel like you aren’t moving, but this water floating away from you taking all those tiny buildings on the horizon with it.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dismissing all the up-tempo pop songs on the album just because they’re different stylistically from what I usually listen to. They are good well-crafted and inspired. But I do think that those moments of quiet observation, of soft whispering and melodies that go straight to the heart – this where Shine, well, shines.
R.I.Y.L. Morcheeba, Saint Etienne, sun shining through clouds over water
personal favs: “Où est-elle?”, “Judas and Mary”, “Et après?”