Isn’t a nice feeling when you know you can trust someone? Doesn’t happen often enough. After listening to the new Martina Topley-Bird album Some Place Simple I know I can trust her. Everything she says about it in this interview is completely true. It is an acoustic record you’ve never heard before. I guess it takes a couple of pure music geniuses (and a “ninja percussionist”) to create a simple record that just fucking crushes thousands of elaborate, technologically advanced, expensive but nonetheless hopelessly mediocre productions popping out every day with its bold, fresh, clean and beautiful sound. Speaking of using vocals as an instrument – this is exactly what Martina Topley-Bird and Damon Albarn (I guess, since he came up with the idea and produced the record) do here, except that by layering the singer’s voice they achieve the sound not of just one instrument, but an entire freakin’ orchestra. The best part about the album is that it keeps you guessing, it changes so fast from song to song that all you can do is wonder how many more surprises Martina & Co have in stock. And she has plenty. The opening “Baby Blue” deceives with the sweet warm sound of ukulele, but the following “Phoenix” cools down the atmosphere with methodical harpsichord and unexpected (but very welcome) percussion towards the end. And so on. Don’t expect sappy stretched out ballads on this one. There is a gospel-like “Intro”, drums galore on “All Day”, garage-rock on “Too Tuff to Die” and something that I’m not even gonna try to describe on “Valentine” (probably the most Albarn-influenced track on the album). With no tracks over four minutes (a third of them doesn’t even reach a 2-minute mark), Some Place Simple not only doesn’t let you get bored with it even for a second, but makes you cherish the longer tracks, like absolutely gorgeous “Sandpaper Kisses”, which I personally liked better than the original version. Albarn‘s production is very present – every sound is distinct, clean and knows (and fulfills) its purpose. At the times I almost wanted to hear some incidental slip-up, some kind of background noise, a whisper, so tight the arrangements are on every single track. But you can fill that emptiness with your sing-alongs and sighs of adoration. Naturally, the record is a must-own for all Martina Topley-Bird fans, but for those who aren’t familiar with her music this would make an excellent starting point. And those who don’t like Martina Topley-Bird… should be reading something else right now.
R.I.Y.L. Feist, The Good The Bad & The Queen, drums
personal favs: “Sandpaper Kisses”, “Baby Blue”, “Poison”