[9 March 2009]
After toying with the idea of changing his name to what would become the title of his fourth album, UK shy guy and gamelan enthusiast Dan Berridge’s One Divided Soul is a thankful addition to the talented young producer’s already fine catalogue. Some three years in the making, much of the record is a welcome return to the mood-setting, vinyl-crackling instrumental hip-hop and sampled downtempo that made 2001’s Compassion and it’s 2003 follow-up The Vessel so cinematic and intriguing. Tracks like the quirky retro sci-fi bloop-hopper “Run ‘Em Down” and the cymbal-riding, happily hypnotic “Seeds” do their part to lighten the mood and progress the Broadway Project sound in new directions, so much so that they are probably responsible for Berridge’s hesitance in releasing the record under his usual moniker.
Despite the chipper moments, the pure guts of the record lay in big bass baroque numbers that out-Portishead their Third. “Keats” hits that mark with its chirping birds melding into synth twitters over a harpsichord and an oppressively compressed beat. The hand-clapping, slightly off kilter “Look Up” certainly does its part too, with a rich string sample, atmospheric space sounds, and crisp percussion. “The Wobble” is one of the weirdest moments, combining high and low art as a classic boom-bap rap beat does battle with “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies”, usurped by a touch of old-school scratching and a warping bassline. “Graham” is up there, too, with a tipping beat coming in and out of time with a swinging, reversing gamelan sample, capturing the meditative quality of the Javanese musical practice. Collectively, these tracks more than justify the thankfully aborted name change.
Among the least Broadway Project-like tracks on the record, “Bar Room Brawl” was actually employed by Guinness for a television ad in late 2008. I can’t ever recall Berridge using such a happy-go-lucky organ before, one that brightens up the upright bass and light jazz beat to a near finger-snapping jive. The organ defines the track, placing it among the most cheerful and most Propellerheads-like works he has yet released. To be honest, though, it really does sound like an advertisement jingle more than a track on an album I want to buy. Even with the floaty, sleepy “Seeds” and the manic “Run ‘Em Down”, “Bar Room Brawl” sticks out in a bad way.
It is a good thing that Berridge is trying to expand his palette, and his recent surge of commercial work supports that as well, but this record will probably not find a place in my heart next to the flawless concept album and his arguably finest work The Vessel. It seems a little forced at times. Not all of these tracks really needed to be Broadway Project tracks. That said, in time, the record’s greatest moments will be that much greater, and the rare damp spots will be easier to skip. All Broadway Project albums age like fine wine. Like most fans of his first three records, I am happy to see the worthy One Divided Soul take its place in my collection alongside those amazing efforts.