Not to make you feel old, but The Herbaliser (Ninja Tune pioneers) have been scratching and cutting their wicked brew for 18 years now. And by the sound of their latest full-length, the group is still capable of some fierce waxing.
Those who are hip to the group know that the duo of Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry, the brains and the soul behind The Herbaliser, based out of West London, have a mighty track record of influential drum and bass.
This self-produced record is a fine addition to the Herbaliser discography, equaling the heights of their 1995 debut Remedies and the follow-up Very Mercenary. The 15 selections that make up There Were Seven offer up moody, beat-happy jams rich with horns, piano, samples (the first of the Lethal Weapon movies and Snoop from The Wire, just to name a few) and scratches.
The self-styled “samurais of sound” have a few allies on this recording: Twin Peaks, George the Poet and Hannah Clive all make sterling cameos here.
True to form, there is no excess fat anywhere.
“Inside the Machine” is a tasty number, one that would make a fantastic Luther intro should the BBC producers get bored of the Massive Attack number. “Mother Dove”, which features what appears to be a synth-made violin, has the menacing and bracing beat one would hear in sci-fi role-playing game on the Xbox.
“What You Asked For” and “Crimes & Misdemeanours” are two of the other standouts on the disc. I could go on, honestly – There Were Seven is stacked and packed with choice cuts.
Melding aspects of ’70s funk, afro-beat, old school ’80s hip-hop and kung-fu movie scores, There Were Seven is more a celebration of where trip-hop has been than where its going. The future is ever present. The past, as it exists in samplers, will live on in loops, beats, and breaks. There Were Seven is a hyperactive, neo-psychedelic, sci-fi excursion through every urban groove in the bank: Herbaliser influences from EPMD to Enter the Dragon abound.
From the dub euphoria of “Extravaganzia” to the horn heavy, noirish throb of “Deep in the Woods” (definitely not a Birthday Party cover), this album is one stunner after another. In short, this is as impressive as any album, of any genre, released this year.
And wasn’t it about time somebody named a song after Danny “I’m too old for this shit” Glover? Kudos to The Herbaliser crew for checking that box.