“Multiply” is one of those timeless tracks, soul-fed but in no way dated. The highlight of Jamie Lidell’s 2005 album of the same name, it is full to bursting with raw-voiced soul, and brings a smile every time it comes on. It’s an indication of the best Lidell can offer, but not all of it. Elements of jazz and electronica are equally important to his new “sound”; a sound not fully worked out on Multiply, which fluctuated around inconsequence and transcendence in equal measure. And it turns out, Lidell’s disc of remixed and live cuts from the album, Multiply Additions, doesn’t quite have it worked out either.
I guess at its root I was hoping for a remix album, or a live album, but the smash-up of both detracts from the continuity that building electronic tracks have—there’s no reinforcement, no building atmosphere. Lidell’s smooth, electro-tinged compositions are ripe for remixing, too, so it seems almost like a missed opportunity. And there’s another problem with the live cuts; if a Lidell live show is really such a never-repeated-the-same-way-twice revelation, all twisted, fragmented parts of songs and layered clips of the audience clapping, how’s a record going to capture that? The two live recordings on Additions don’t really communicate this frenetic/immediately manufactured quality. Though the La Scala crowd whoops and cheers enthusiastically, “You Got Me Up” is really not more than a breakdown, a groove that hardly rises to a complete song. And Lidell’s “Game for Fools” plays second fiddle to Mara Carlyle’s gorgeous cover; the Herbert collaborator’s entrancing, smoky jazz voice totally owns this Standard-style tune.
Which begs the question: why not just include one version? It becomes an issue when considering track order, since the first three tracks mirror Multiply directly, that Additions could have become this year’s Silent Alarm, a remix album with the potential to bring new insight to the perhaps too-splayed enthusiasm of the original. Instead, we get a bit of a hodge-podge: some jazzy live work, some quality electro remixes, without the sense of a cohesive, overarching idea.
Still, there is some quality remix work on Additions. “A Little Bit More”‘s repeated electro hits are a perfect accompaniment for the “little bit more” ostinato (recalling Herbert’s “The Movers and the Shakers”) and Lidell’s thin voice, which is a little like Pharell Williams’ over-reaching soul imitation from “Frontin’”, but better. “What’s the Use” is turned around in typical Mocky style, up-playing the funk and down-playing Mocky’s smooth raps. He’s done the same thing just now with Feist in “Fightin’ Away the Tears”, where the melody’s a firm focus, the rap taking place of verse in a really satisfying combination. And Freeform’s mix of “When I Come Back Around” is all echoing electro, pared of the funk bassline, letting the dance-party chorus stand on its own (leaving out the mixed-up multiple voices of the original).
If the original was Lidell’s masterpiece, “Multiply (In a Minor Key)” is a passable, gentler iteration: all piano accompaniment and vocals that seem to bask in the warmth of the melody. But there’s also Matthew Herbert’s “Hoedown Bump Instrumental”. I suppose given this, it’s no surprise I liked the Herbert rework. A toy steam-engine chugger replete with all sorts of little metallic clicks and clacks and a cool bass flourish, it proves Herbert’s not just great at making the background interesting for Siciliano or Murphy.
So Multiply Additions seems like a true in-the-meantime. Not as substantial as it could have been, the disc is more fodder for one track here, one track there: Luke Vibert’s mix going on your “Party” playlist, Mara Carlyle’s onto your “Sunday Morning”. Useful for DJs and collectors, but otherwise, you won’t miss much by waiting for Lidell’s next effort.
Jamie Lidell - Multiply