Why is this CD, the debut solo effort from UK group Moloko’s singer that was released last year, essential? For one, it’s one of the best examples of production shaping but not overwhelming the artist’s vision. Matthew Herbert (of multiple recent PopMatters fame) produced Ruby Blue, and it’s almost as much Herbert’s work as Murphy’s—the electronic composer’s characteristic, idiosyncratic-organic sounds are tightly wound into the fabric of every song. From the splatter-disco beat of “Ramalama (Bang Bang)” to the harder-edged title track (the percussion sounds like a drum with all sorts of utensils through on top, recalling Cage’s altered piano), Herbert’s inventive accompaniments are the perfect foil for Roisin Murphy’s now-mature, now-still-jazz-diva voice. It starts—the opening clunky build-up of “Leaving the City”’s first minute, the anticipation’s repaid over and again; Murphy’s melodies move in unexpected directions (as with the dissonant, deceptively tender “The Closing of Doors”), so that each time you hear them they hold a refreshing vitality. “Sow Into You” has a baroque, canonic brass background throughout the first section of the song that morphs into an electronic figure imitation—while Murphy’s staccato melody somehow propels the song forward. As a study alone in influence on Herbert’s later work, this disc is valuable; but as a dance-oriented collection of complex songs, it deserves high praise in its own right. If you missed it last year, definitely one to re-discover.
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