The world’s a better place with Neneh Cherry in it. Despite the fact that she’s spent her entire career living in the shadow of “Buffalo Stance”, the song that she remains most closely associated with, she’s carved out a wonderful career for herself, and at her own pace to boot. Now 44 years old, she’d certainly be forgiven for fading entirely into the past, with a rich legacy of quiet musical successes to her name, but CirKus is evidence that she’s not at all ready to do that just yet.
CirKus is a project actually headed up by Cherry’s husband Burt Ford and also augmented by vocalist/keyboardist Lolita Moon and DJ/multi-instrumentalist Karmil. Together, their music (as evidenced by Laylower) hearkens back to the time when Ford and Cherry were closely associated with the Wild Bunch/Massive Attack crew, dominated by slow beats and hip-hop intimations, with a liberal dose of rock ‘n roll guitars to punch up the intensity now and again. Ford himself actually does a whole pile of the vocals, sounding a fair bit like Horace Andy with less vibrato, but Cherry and Moon do the best work, particularly when the former is cutting loose with a little bit of venom; the kiss-off vibe of “You’re Such An…” is sort of hilarious, and her aggressive rap on opener “Laylow” is plenty to snap the listener out of the hazy vibe that the song introduces.
Laylower is actually a re-recording of the collective’s first album Laylow, with an eye on what worked and what didn’t when they performed it in a live setting; not having heard the first iteration of these songs, my suspicion is that whatever they did worked. Laylower is 71 minutes that constantly sounds fresh despite the near 20-year-old sound it evokes. Those who miss that sound will find plenty to like.
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