Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Neneh Cherry – Kong

Here’s some topical trip-hop. Top-hop? Trip-top? (NB: “topical house” should definitely not be a thing.)


Pedro João Santos: The cover art for “Kong, in which Neneh Cherry dons a basic tee and austerely glances the camera, mimics the song’s approach with fidelity, eschewing glamour and bombast for a starker, more gravitational impression. Yet it’s a puzzle for me: the instantaneous response I expected to have was hampered by its overt fluidity; later, having absorbed the hook over listens, I thought I’d gotten a hold of all its layers (I still don’t). Just at an entry point, there’s the push and pull of the bass-punctuated trip hop instrumental, furnished by Four Tet and 3D — once the piano keys settle in, the initial ominousness gives way to inebriating tension — indicative of the more literal one lingering over the lyrics. And it grows more interesting, as Neneh’s tender register, balancing serenity and assertiveness, creates an astonishing interplay with the sonic background: a tender, forceful voice attempting to float and escape the manacles of the frigid earth beneath it. Hers might be the only one heard, but it speaks to millions, those homaged in this manifesto of perseverance: “the displaced people who have left their loves and homes trying to save lives.” Beneath an immense tune also lies a noble, disarming message; all its elements reappoint Neneh as the peerless creator she has been for years.

Alfred Soto: Not a return to a sound that launched a dozen trip-hop so much as a recapitulation, “Kong” conjures ominousness out of hi-hat and dub bass. Neneh Cherry keeps her cool. The world is collapsing, and there ain’t much she can do but articulate the rage.

Ryo Miyauchi: The narcotic trip-hop sounds even sweeter coming from the noisy bump-and-grind of Blank Project, and the suspended animation placed by the music vividly captures this in-between of bliss and doom sung by Neneh Cherry. She expresses a lot of anguish, burdened by repeated experience, though the light wins out to give way to one great lyric: “bite my head off, still my world will be a little risk worth taking.”

Juana Giaimo: In “Kong,” Neneh Cherry leaves the frenetic energy for a more thoughtful tone. Her voice is calm and still deeply involved. The trip-hop beat and the piano loop help to create an atmosphere that resembles a static scene that she is exploring and analyzing, finding only disillusion.

Edward Okulicz: I’m writing this from Cherry’s hometown of Stockholm, which is in the grip of a national election. It all seems very polite, with a lot of talking and pamphlets and posters with slogans on every electricity pole (saying things like “More security” and “More EU” and “Against extremism”). The differences between some parties seem small enough to a non-Swede that surely some of them will form a coalition of some sort. And of course, there’s a party founded by Nazi admirers who will get lots of votes and probably not be part of a coalition. There is some acknowledged, if apologetic, racism in the air. The first Swedish person I spoke to was a taxi driver who with complete politeness told me about how much he didn’t like “gypsies.” So this track’s lyrics feel very timely. Yet the song meanders too much to be as compelling as its message. “Kong” has the gauzy, narcotic atmosphere of early Massive Attack, courtesy no doubt of co-producer 3D. It’s a good sound for… well, just about anyone would sound pretty good over it, and Cherry sounds good in almost any surrounding. Yet while I agree with the song’s sentiments, I feel bored, as if over-stimulated by opinions of those I don’t agree with that I don’t have time for nice ones I surround myself with among friends and family.

Will Adams: The simple construction — a verse and chorus of cautious hope set to contemplative, airy sonics, followed by a breakdown that strips it all back to drums and bass, repeated twice — gives Neneh Cherry more than enough room to captivate, however that it ends on the latter section makes “Kong” seem unresolved.

Reader average: [6.5] (2 votes)

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