11 March, 2013@6:32 am
Dan The Automator has been quite nomadic in recent years. Just a decade ago, we found him at the helm of high profile projects like Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modelling School, and Gorillaz, before going off to produce rock acts like Head Automatica and Kasabian. So it’s been a while since we’ve heard the more URB Magazine-flavored version of Automator, but with Pillowfight, a collaboration with vocalist Emily Wells, the king of the beats returns.
“Trip-Hop” was a bit of a dead genre in the 2000’s, with indie rock bands taking over, hip-hop choosing synth over samples, and only a lone album from Portishead in 2008. Pillowfight attempts to subtly bring it back, with Automator’s trademark production style, and Emily’s sultry vocals, combining a bit of Macy Gray rasp, and Sheryl Crow twang.
At times, the duo completely nails it – such as on the bluesy opener “Used To Think”, or the horn-driven “Get Your Shit Together”, which sounds like something RZA might sample for his next movie soundtrack. Other times, they miss the mark completely, such as on the generic “Get Down”, or the lethargic “Darlin Darlin”, which is so cliché-laden, you can almost guess the next lyric.
Boiled down, Dan The Automator is in his element here, many times channeling the sound found on Lovage’s Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By. But Wells seems to be the weakest link in this collaboration. We’ve heard seen this formula (hip-hop beats + sultry female vocalist) many times before, yet for it to work really depends on the strength of the singer herself. Wells merely plods along, with predictable lyrics and lazily delivered vocals that never really show off her vocal chops, nor break new ground lyrically.
Had we not been spoiled by the pioneering late 90’s trip hop movement, or even by some of the entries out of Dan’s own catalog, the bar might not have been raised so high. This isn’t bad by any means, but doesn’t do much to resurrect the genre either.
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