Tuesday, 31 December 2013

D CDs #481: Background Hum

Once again the North East's whitest man (TM) finds himself tackling a classic slice of African-American music, and tries his best to muddle through.

Actually, though, to my great relief, I get this (though the cover rather makes me wonder whether D'Angelo bought into the common fear that the Y2K bug would render everyone's shirts unusable).  Or, at least, there's a clear route through to something that makes sense to me. Who doesn't want to see soul rendered as funky and filthy as is humanly possible? James Brown can't do all this on his own, you know, though obviously he made a credible stab at the job.

With minimal-to-absent breaks between songs, and a consistent key and tempo, this feels less like thirteen individual slices of music and more a single composition of multiple movements.  Various hypnotic, snake-like bass lines wend their way through simplistic, prominent beats; a foreground for D'Angelo's high-pitched, beautiful croon. It's like a nervous miner bird stole a synthesiser and borrowed a horn section.

The end result is perhaps slight - if one is to rely on one's rhythm section, one perhaps needs to be more concerned about varying the tempo than D'Angelo seems to be - but it's also a perfect musical backdrop for those times when you need a backdrop, as oppose to a distraction. In other words, this is a disc you press into service when your brain runs as slow and laid-back as this does.  For when the business of the day is very not absorbing lyrics (rarely more than mildly diverting here, though "Devil's Pie" is a nice moment of realisation,"One Mo'Gin" a rather sweet love-and-loss song, and "Africa" a paean to a stolen past in the face of a new future; all of which break up the expected focus upon making people dance, making women swoon, and making naysayers uncomfortable).

Within that particular scenario, Voodoo does it's job with discipline and economy, and no small amount of soul.   Which, I think we can all agree, will very much do.

Seven tentacles.

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