Neneh Cherry

Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)

Rating: NNNN

Twenty-five years into her career, there’s still a terrific rawness to genre-exploding Swedish musician Neneh Cherry. Her new album, a collaboration with London duo RocketNumberNine, arose from an unspecified personal tragedy, though she’s clearly also still grieving her artist mother, who died in 2009. “Since our mother’s gone it always seems to rain,” she says on the largely spoken-word album opener, Across The Water.

But Blank Project, a follow-up to her 2012 punk cover song collaboration with Scandinavian free jazz trio The Thing, is not death-focused or mournful. It’s full of soulful beats that find that perfect spot between languid and energetic, and Cherry’s equally soulful voice is so upfront against the stripped-down arrangements that you hear every tiny imperfection, sensuous syllable and poetic word. The result is incredibly potent and human.

Out Of The Black, a duet with pop singer Robyn, is the catchiest, and Spit Three Times the most expressive. The rhythmically pummelling title track is the most powerful, about embracing the contradictory feelings that come with loving someone deeply for a long time.

Top track: Blank Project

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