Compared to Neneh Cherry's three proper solo albums, the last of which was released in 1996, Blank Project is from another dimension. It's in line with her post-punk roots in the Slits, Rip Rig & Panic, New Age Steppers, and Float Up CP and, to a lesser extent, her 2000s output with family affair cirKus. Blank Project is also something of a continuation of The Cherry Thing, a 2012 album on which she was backed by the Thing -- a Scandinavian jazz trio inspired by her stepfather Don Cherry. Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, remixed that collaboration's cover of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream," and he produced these songs, with instrumentation from by RocketNumberNine's Ben and Tom Page. Cherry co-wrote all the material with varying combinations of writers, including the Pages, longtime creative partner and husband BoogaBear, the late Cole Williams, Paul Simm, and Hebden. Recorded briskly in five days, the album begins with a chill in the form of "Across the Water," where sparse, crawling percussion accompanies Cherry as she grieves, "Since mother's gone, it always seems to rain" and "My fear's for my daughters." The title track then propels the album into the first of several stark pieces that involve the Pages' hurtling drums and protrusive synthesizers. Their work suits baleful and agitated words that have sharpness even when Cherry delivers them with sweetness. Nervous energy -- taut and circular drum patterns, sing-songy vocal projections, raw barbs -- rarely recedes. When it does, as on "Spit Three Times" and "422," the results are just as penetrating. In the former, Cherry casually flicks "You're addicted to me/Leave me alone" and then, seconds later, trails off with "I'm addicted to you." The latter is one of the bleakest and most moving moments in Cherry's career, if only for "Thoughts that curl up your toes/All the bullshit that gets up your nose." Friend Robyn joins in on "Out of the Black," but the mood hardly lifts, with imagery of tied hands, mourners, and wolf packs over steady drums and tremulous synthesizers. From front to back, Blank Project is riveting uneasy listening. ~ Andy Kellman
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The 'Buffalo Stance' singer's first solo LP since 1996 refuses to be slotted as rap, rock, jazz, pop, EDM or R&B, while delivering all of the above."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.95) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] lean, hungry and impeccably intense record..."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[I]t's understated to the extreme, a master class in the ways in which simple pleasures can become fascinatingly deep."
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