Thursday, 1 March 2012

Review: Blue Daisy - The Sunday Gift

Blue Daisy - The Sunday Gift
I'm not sure where I got the recommendation for this album from, but I'm glad I discovered it. Blue Daisy has been championed by no less than Mary Anne Hobbs, who has apparently declared him as "the future of British electronic music". A lofty claim indeed, and yet more praise comes from Mojo, who labelled The Sunday Gift as the "best electronic album of 2011". Bloody hell. Usually I'd be suspicious of any act that got this much hype, so perhaps it's lucky I heard The Sunday Gift before reading anything about it, because I gave it a fair listen and I absolutely loved it.

For some reason, this album has been touted as part of the dubstep movement in certain circles, and even though it takes influence from a wide variety of genres I can safely say it has nothing to do with dubstep. For the most part is alternates between beautiful ambient and smokey, atmospheric 21st Century trip-hop of the type Massive Attack should still be making if they hadn't lost the plot. Shadow Assassins in particular sounds like an instrumental successor to Safe From Harm. It finishes up with the brilliant Spinning Channel, which almost sounds like blissed out progressive house. This is basically what UNKLE probably sounds like to people who like UNKLE, instead of sounding like UNKLE sound to me, which is to say boring and derivative tripe. Blue Daisy also has a background in the instrumental hip-hop scene, which was always only one step away from trip-hop.

Trip-hop was a genre that spent at least a decade being perpetually trendy, and yet I never bought into the likes of Portishead and Morcheeba. For me, the only guys who really did trip-hop well were Massive Attack themselves. No - DJ Shadow does not make trip-hop. Fuck off. Have we really had to wait twenty years from Blue Lines for someone else to do it properly? Apparently so. Hardly the "future of British electronic music". More like "finally fixing the problems of the last two decades of British electronic music", if you ask me.

Anyway, this is a fantastic album. The production is deliberately very muddy and blurred out in a lot of places, and the ambient soundscapes are incredibly rich, all of which helps reinvigorate a lot of well-worn trip-hop ideas (plaintive female vocals, brooding basslines, the odd guest rapper). This is the kind of electronic record you can play to people who people who don't really like much electronic music and they'll probably get a big kick out of it. You know the kind of people - the kind who stopped going to nightclubs as soon as they finished university, and probably haven't changed the CDs in their car since they turned 21. People with respectable but unadventurous tastes, who like "proper music" that is classy without being particularly experimental.

All of which is not to disparage Blue Daisy - I really, really like this album. It's just pretty obvious that this has the kind of mainstream cross-over appeal that results in hype from Radio 1 DJs and mainstream music mags. It's not massively experimental or groundbreaking, but it's executed brilliantly, and it plays through very well as an album, with the strong atmospherics and sound design neatly uniting the various stylistic directions. Hopefully Blue Daisy will go on to cross over into the album charts, because this is exactly the kind of album that can achieve such a feat.

Genre: Trip-hop
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

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