Blank Project

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Blank Project
Studio album by Neneh Cherry
Released February 25, 2014
Genre Electronic
Electronica
Length 48:52
Label Smalltown Supersound
Producer Four Tet
Neneh Cherry chronology
Man
(1996)
Blank Project
(2014)

Blank Project is the fourth studio album by Neneh Cherry, released by Smalltown Supersound on February 25, 2014.[1] The record is Cherry's first album of solo music in 18 years.[2][3] It was recorded and mixed over a 5-day period in Woodstock, NY.[4] It was produced by Four Tet's Kieran Hebden and features a guest appearance by Robyn.[5] The record also includes work with prior collaborators, synth/drum duo RocketNumberNine.[2] Critical reviews of the album were very positive.

Background[edit]

Cherry has said that the record musically mourns the death of her mother in 2009.[6] “I have this sense of feeling quite calm and settled in what I'm doing right now, but also a sense of urgency,” Cherry says. “I think [Blank Project] is very much about being here and now rather than being trapped or trying to recreate some kind of nostalgia.”[7]

On the meaning of the title, "The Blank Project": "We put so much importance on the meaning of things, and the title contradicts that. No matter how much I think I know, I don't know shit. [Laughs.] The album represents where we are now, what I've been through, where I'm going — but exactly what that means, I don't really know. [Laughs.]"[6]

The opening song, "Across the Water," is about "growing up, coming to New York, and losing my mother. It's dedicated to her and my daughters. I always found very strong images for my songwriting in New York. Yesterday I was sitting on the train and thinking about the presence of everybody in New York. What's sometimes really overwhelming in Sweden is the uniformity. People kind of disappear by all looking the same and wearing the same clothes. There are a lot of great individuals, but it can become a very blank and bleak picture. 'Across the Water' is a tribute to a feeling I always have when I come here."[6]

Cherry said "Hands Across the Water" was "the last thing we recorded for the album. We were thinking we were done and then - 'No, we’ve gotta do this track,' and it ended up being the song that was meant to start the record."[8]

Recording, production[edit]

On the recording process, which took place in Woodstock, New York, Cherry said: "Kieran lives in Woodstock some of the time, so he wanted to work there. It was great. We were all in a live-in studio—a very vibrant place that's like a converted old church. Kieran was the only person going home at night. It was all about the rawness and capturing stuff in the moment. We were doing two tracks a day—10 songs in five days—and we rehearsed quite a lot. Kieran built us these really funny tents in the chapels. Tom and Ben [of RocketNumberNine] had their little compartments. I had this weird, nomadic little tent with a rug over it, like a booth where I'd sing the vocals."[7]

The idea, per Cherry was "to sort of capture the time, to not make lots of alterations and post-production and stuff, to really let it happen there and then."[9]

Cherry discussed Four Tet's Kieran Hebden: "Kieran is kind of a magic person. I think stylistically you can feel and hear Kieran in the record. You can even feel his breath, he’s definitely in there. He’s not a manipulative person at all, he was totally candid. We had five days to record these ten tracks, and the concept was to record it live to ensure the process was as natural as possible."[10]

Musical style, writing, composition[edit]

The record is a departure from her previous work, consisting of a more sparse sound, with loose drums and a few synthesizers as the only accompaniment to her voice.[11]

On the songwriting process: "A lot of the content of the songs and the directions they went into just kind of happened in the spur of the moment, as we were writing, because we were writing a lot of it together with Cameron and a guy called Paul Simm, was also part of the writing team. We had the songs and then, thank God, we found RocketNumberNine. [Laughs.] And then we gave them the songs."[9]

RocketNumberNine provides industrial beats and "a backing that is sparse and frequently conveys paranoia and feelings of pressure and claustrophobia."[12]

Cherry on RocketNumber Nine: "There’s a bluntness in what they do. To me, it gives the songs the essence they were already begging for. We’d rehearsed loads before we went up for these five days with Kieran, so we were able to do what we had to do without stumbling over too many blocks. Most of the songs were done in two or three takes, then we’d choose a take that we like –and it would usually be apparent which one had the vibe. Sometimes, that was it. ‘Everything’ and ‘422’ we did in one take, I think."[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Blank Project
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 82/100[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[14]
AV Club A-[15]
Consequence of Sound B[16]
Exclaim! 7/10[17]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[18]
NME 8/10[19]
MusicOMH 5/5 stars[4]
Pitchfork 7.7/10[20]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[21]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[22]
Telegraph (UK) 4/5 stars[23]

Blank Project received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 82, based on 36 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[13] NPR calls the work "stark and urgent, almost entirely percussive. Her lyrics are less rebel treatises than koans or ruminations. And her old purr now shares time with unnerving whispers or ominous howls."[2] SPIN says it is "a stark, bracing, and emotionally vulnerable album that straddles the jazz, pop, and electronic worlds rather brilliantly."[6] The Guardian calls it "a bold and adventurous album"[18] and "an eerie, compelling affair featuring evocative beat-style poetry and written in her bedroom using the same Casio synth she's had for 20 years."[24]

On Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet's work on this record, Simon Sweetman from Off The Tracks: "He does a lot of standing back, observing, but he’s a guiding hand too – his touch, his feel is across this; he helps the tunes to appear so weighty, sometimes murky. He gives the tunes his blessing – and that helps them to achieve some sort of sonic weightlessness too. They don’t just waft and drift though, they’re such a fuzziness, a scuzziness to this sound that it’s reminiscent of the first two albums by Tricky."[25] Indeed, per Dummy magazine: "he seems like a relatively hands-off producer, more concerned about subtracting elements of the recordings than piling on another synth line or harder bass."[26]

The Arts Desk describes the record: "High on rhythms and percussion and low on conventional melodies, it certainly isn’t easy listening but is frequently bold and challenging, with harsh electronica providing the only accompaniment to Neneh’s warm vocals."[12] The Skinny calls Blank Project a "triumph."[27]

Electronic Beats says: "Blank Project is an upturned bag on a table, pouring out its contents for anyone to sort through: chewed up emotions, snotty little insecurities and the kind of anxiety that’ll etch red marks into the skin if you carry it around too long. This is no pity party, though—there are no apologies and no excuses. This is adult territory, a confrontation of the demons in order to put them back in their place."[28]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Neneh Cherry, Cameron McVey and Paul Simm[29]

Blank Project (mp3, CD, LP)
No. Title Length
1. "Across the Water"   3:28
2. "Blank Project"   4:05
3. "Naked"   3:57
4. "Spit Three Times"   4:18
5. "Weightless"   5:46
6. "Cynical"   4:10
7. "422"   5:21
8. "Out of the Black (featuring Robyn)"   5:15
9. "Dossier"   5:12
10. "Everything"   7:20

Bonus tracks[edit]

Bonus CD[edit]

The Blank Project - Bonus Remix Disc (available via Rough Trade Records and Piccadilly Records[30]

  1. Everything (Radio Edit)
  2. Out of the Black (featuring Robyn) (Joe Goddard Extended Version)
  3. Everything (Villalobos & Loderbauer: Vilod Low Blood Pressure Mix)
  4. Out of the Black (Featuring Robyn) (Bouvet Remix)

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[31] 38
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[32] 44
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[33] 65
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[34] 71
German Albums (Official Top 100)[35] 39
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[36] 40
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 28
UK Albums (OCC)[38] 41
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[39] 6

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, Kurt (7 February 2014). "Live In-Studio: Neneh Cherry's Soul Punk Project (Interview + Performance)" (audio interview). Studio 360. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Macia, Peter (February 17, 2014). "First Listen: Neneh Cherry, 'Blank Project'" (article and audio stream). NPR. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Chinen, Nate (21 February 2014). "The Sounds of Things Ending, Continuing and Reshaping". New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Young, Martyn (18 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project". MusicOMH. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Battan, Carrie (18 November 2013). "Listen: Neneh Cherry Shares Title Track From Four Tet-Produced Album Blank Project". Pitchfork. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Gehr, Richard (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Talks Her Weird Punk-Pop-Jazz Trajectory, and the New 'Blank Project'". SPIN. Spin Music, a division of SpinMedia. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Zoladz, Lindsay (10 January 2014). "Neneh Cherry". Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media Inc. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Montesinos-Donaghy, Daniel (10 February 2014). "We Spoke To Neneh Cherry About Working With Four Tet". THUMP UK. Vice Media Inc. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Kenner, Rob (18 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Talks "Blank Project," "Buffalo Stance," and Biggie". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Nevett, Joshua. "Neneh Cherry". Crack Magazine. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Neneh Cherry shares details of new album Blank Project out 24th February 2014/25th February in the US on Smalltown Supersound". Soundcloud. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Oddy, Guy (23 February 2014). "CD: Neneh Cherry - Blank Project". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "Blank Project Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. 24 February 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Kellman, Andy (24 February 2014). "Blank Project - Neneh Cherry : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Bowman, Patrick (25 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry crafts trip-hop in her own image on Blank Project". AV Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Josephs, Brian (26 February 2014). "Album Review: Neneh Cherry – Blank Project". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Patrick, Ryan B. "Neneh Cherry Blank Project". Exclaim!. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (20 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry: Blank Project – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  19. ^ Batey, Angus (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry - 'Blank Project'". NME. IPC Media Entertainment Network. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Raymer, Miles (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Blank Project". Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Hermes, Will (25 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry Blank Project". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  22. ^ Henderson, Eric (25 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry: Blank Project". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Brown, Helen (24 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry, Blank Project, review". Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  24. ^ Mossman, Kate (22 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry, interview: 'People ask me where I've been for 18 years'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  25. ^ Sweetman, Simon (23 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry: Blank Project". Off The Tracks. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Darnell, Robert (25 February 2014). "Album of the Week: Neneh Cherry - ‘Blank Project". Dummy magazine. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Gieben, Bram E. (11 February 2014). "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (5 Stars)". The Skinny. Radge Media Limited. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Saxelby, Ruth (20 February 2014). "Sweet and Sour: Ruth Saxelby on Neneh Cherry’s Blank Project". Electronic Beats. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  29. ^ Bui, Paul (24 February 2014). "life is just a bowl of neneh cherry's". i-D Magazine. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  30. ^ "Neneh Cherry Blank Project - Bonus Disc Edition: Track Listing". Piccadilly Records. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "Neneh Cherry - Blank Project" (in German). Austriancharts.at. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  32. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project" (in Dutch). Ultratop.be. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  33. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project" (in French). Ultratop.be. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  34. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project" (in Dutch). Dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  35. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  36. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project". Swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  37. ^ "Neneh Cherry – Blank Project". Swisscharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  38. ^ "Neneh Cherry | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  39. ^ "2014-03-08 Top 40 Independent Albums Archive | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 12, 2014.

External links[edit]