Repeated listens of this finely realised album are an enjoyable must.
Ian Roullier 2012
More than 17 years after The Herbaliser’s debut long player, Remedies, was unleashed, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba return with their seventh (the clue’s in the title) studio album.
Having been lumped into the same, rather vague, "trip hop" ragbag along with Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheeba, and DJs Shadow and Krush in the mid-90s, The Herbaliser have endured by building upon their original sample-based sound and producing several albums of gilt-edged, funk-driven hip hop.
There Were Seven sees a familiar split between instrumental and vocal-driven tracks, but this is a definite departure from the pop-edged soul of 2008’s Same As It Never Was, and the delight is in the detail. The Lost Boy conjures up images of a dark, edgy jazz club with smoke trails hanging heavy in the air as Hannah Clive’s sultry vocals glide over a James Bond-style backing.
Welcome to Extravagance forms the Herbaliser’s first, and highly successful, foray into dub reggae, while cut-up syllables from a 9/11 documentary provide a driving percussive bedrock for the brooding, electronic chill of Mother Dove, which somehow manages to be simultaneously relaxed and uneasy.
Another standout is the brass and flute-driven, madcap car chase soundtrack that is Take ‘Em On, which forces heads to nod and feet to tap and is virtually guaranteed to become a live favourite.
The Herbaliser’s knack of breaking new hip hop talent – previous collaborators include MF Doom and Jean Grae – continues on There Were Seven. Nineteen-year-old Neasden wordsmith, George the Poet, reveals his lyrical dexterity and disillusionment with the music industry on A Sad State of Affairs, while Ottawa’s Ghettosocks appears several times alongside two of his crews, Teenburger and Twin Peaks. Each genuinely has a point to convey that they express with intelligence, far away from the hot air that wafts charmlessly out of many hip hop artists today.
The stylistic and emotional variety of There Were Seven may be immediate, but full immersion within the album’s rich sonic world is recommended so as to appreciate its full glory. Repeated listens of this finely realised album are therefore an enjoyable must.