I’ve been listening to Same As It Never Was for the last month or so and have really been diggin’ it. One of the reasons I think that I’ve been enjoying The Herbaliser's latest so much is the group’s continually developing skills at mixing of jazz, hip-hop, and funk, all styles that my musical meanderings have been tending towards as of late, and this album sates my thirst for all three.
The album opens up with the title track, and a horn section proudly proclaiming some Latinized Stax sounding horn riffs laid over some scratching and rhymes being dropped in the background – essentially bringing together all of the group’s influences together to get the album off on the right foot. Check it out below.
From there the album shifts towards the funk with its second track On Your Knees, which features Jessica Darling’s vocals (she appears in five of the album’s tracks - check out You're Not All That below). Again though, even though it kicks out a heavy 70’s funk vibe, you still have other elements interlaced throughout. In this case the occasional scratch cutting in between the grooved guitar and synth parts.
Up next, a little hip-hip courtesy of rhymes dropped by UK rapper Yungun (aka Essa) on Just Won’t Stop. Then, the album’s first instrumental cut (you’ll find three and a half in all – the half being the album’s closer, whose first half is instrumental with Jessica Darling making her final appearance at the very end) titled The Next Spot. The Herbaliser is known for peppering their albums with instrumentals, so it’s not surprising to see them here. What might be surprising to many listeners not familiar with their music is how fulfilling the tracks feel. At five minutes and thirty three seconds, you’d expect the track to be one you’d either skip over entirely or listen to impatiently, but that’s not the case. Even the instrumentals here sport some soul and spirit that offer audio enjoyment.
After the instrumental interlude, the album returns to Jessica with another funkified track that will remind you a lot of what Sharon Jones does with her music. You’ll then shift to another instrumental, and then back onto the hip-hop tip with South African artist Jean Grae (who the band has worked with before on Take London) on Street Karma (A Cautionary Tale).
The rest of the album rolls through the same shifts, going from funk, to jazzy instrumentals, to hip-hop, and then closing with two more tracks featuring Jessica Darling.
and a couple from their last album:
The Herbalizer - Gadget Funk : Take London
The Herbaliser - I Am (Featuring Wildflower) : Take London (Bonus Disc)