The two 7"s here drip with atmosphere, bursting with ideas like an overripe fruit.
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
The Broadway Project's Compassion was one of the great records of 2001; akin to a 2 am session with your vinyl junkie mate playing his or her favourite cosmic jazz, prog rock and psychedelic obscurities on 3 sets of turntables simultaneously, it was a casually brilliant collage. Blissfully, sleepily atmospheric, screaming rock guitar heroics floated over harps, slo-mo beats and swirling orchestral atmospherics; it really shouldn't have worked, but it really, really did.
With this EP. Mystery repeats itself. Dan Berridge (aka Broadway Project) brings in real musicians with real vocals and real songs, but the results are as immediate, engaging yet as ungraspable as anything on Compassion. The two 7"s here drip with atmosphere, bursting with ideas like an overripe fruit.
The title track (reworked from Compassion) pits Richard Palmer's vocal over an exotic brew of acoustic guitar, massed Alice Coltrane strings and forlorn piano; a solo violin emerges from nowhere for a delicious downward spiralling slice of melancholia. Palmer recalls David McAlmont's stratospheric soul stylings; "I try to recall", he repeats in a litle boy lost voice, sounding genuinely desolate. Shivers down the backbone are guaranteed.
"Run Away to Me" is a casually complex slab of downtempo psychedelia; Palmer attempts to reassure, but fails; "late at night, I'll be there...a terrible crime has been dreamed and planned". More shivers; later he resorts to whispering incoherently as a keening tenor saxophone gasps its last breath. "South Coast" approaches dubbed up funkiness, with squeezed out guitar rockisms splitting Berridges wind tunnel dub atmospherics, while "Primal" is a dense soup of sitar drones powered by funked up distended rock beats, topped off with Julie Kozma's soulful vocal.
While Berridge has clearly spent an unhealthy amount of time leafing through vinyl obscurities in his local second hand record shop for source material, it's time well spent. Rarely has sampladelica sounded so organic; there's none of the self-referential samplespotting that plagues Ninja Tune releases for example.
The combination of cinematic atmospherics and slow funk beats might scream Portishead or any number of lesser imitators, but Berridge's rough edged, heavily organic mix is unlikely to end up soundtracking the next ad for the Nissan Micra. As soon as the stylus hits the runout groove you've stuck it back on again, if only to find out what it is that makes this stuff tick. "There'll be a time when this will all be clear", sings Palmer on "Run Away to Me". Lets hope not. Essential.