Review: Neneh Cherry’s first solo album in 16 years, ‘Blank Project’
“Good things come to those who wait,” Neneh Cherry sings over stormy electronics and a skittering rhythm on her first solo album in 16 years.
If there’s a lingering take-away from “Blank Project,” that’s it. Cherry, whose breakout hit “Buffalo Stance” was practically inescapable in the late ‘80s, left music for years before reemerging with “The Cherry Thing” in 2012. A brash stab of skronky jazz-punk that paired Cherry’s soulful vocals with a blustery Scandinavian saxophone trio, the record was one of the year’s best. Here Cherry proves that comeback was no fluke.
Produced by electronic artist Four Tet and backed by the percussive U.K. space-jazz duo RocketNumberNine, Cherry’s “Blank Project” dips into gruff soul, icy hip-hop and avant-garde invention. Said to be inspired by some dark times in Cherry’s life, the album is shadowed by menace but can move like a dance record. The skittering “Everything” and “Out of the Black” are girded with sticky hooks, with the latter finding Cherry trading barbed verses with Swedish pop star Robyn. Spiked by airy synths and a punchy rhythm, “Dossier” deserves to ripple across dance floors all summer.
Elsewhere, the surging rhythms of the title track and the fuzzed-out “Weightless” carry a bracing, near-industrial drive that sounds like a more interesting revival of Nine Inch Nails. “I’ve found my sound,” Cherry reveals amid the clattering “Cynical.” Let’s just hope she doesn’t keep us waiting so long to hear more.
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