The eargerly awaited follow up to the crystalline perfection of 2002's 'The Fact And...
Jack Smith 2004
Musical dilemma#27: How do you follow up an acclaimed debut album that had heaps of praise bestowed upon it, including being voted Down tempo Album of the Year by Blues & Soul magazine, the Big Chill's Pete Lawrence and BBC Radio London's Robert Elms? Logic would dictate the old adage of it-ain't-broke-don't fix-it. But logic is not what Fragile State are about.
Our two protagonists of the beautifully chilled and deconstructed - Zero 7's Neil Cowley and music journalist Ben Mynott - have instead created a soundscape that boarders on soundtracks, afrocentric rhythms, jazz and contemporary classical.
Conceptually - intentionally or otherwise - Voices From The Dust Bowl is an album for listening to from beginning to end. Don't go looking for singles, as whilst several might be flagged as suitable candidates, it's the overall feel that counts. The journey beginning with the minimalist bass and Rhodes led afro-beater "Four-Four-Four" allowing subtle harmonies to draw you in, before ebbing-and-flowing into the airy light rock of "King For A Day" (imagine Steely Dan jamming in some downtime).
Highlights include the warm ambience on the Moby-esque "Cleo" - folky melodrama in the best tradition of Air and (not surprisingly) Zero 7; the near-classical arrangements on the John Barry-inspired "New Bassa"; and the chilled drum 'n' bass tempoed "Overcurrent". While the big tune finale, "Paper Tiger", sounds uncannily like a seventies Blaxploitation number scored by Quincy, Curtis or Marvin.
Voices From The Dust Bowl is a sophomore set of bucolic impressions and beguiling dream-inducing electronica, electing not to be a Xerox of their debut, but a worthy adversary. It's that which may similarly see it being crowded as an Album of the Year come December.