Album review

The Free Association :
David Holmes Presents
The Free Association

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The Free Association : David Holmes Presents The Free AssociationThe Free Association started life as David Holmes' alter ego on the Come Get It I Got It mix album from earlier this year, but over the last few months has since mutated into a full touring band with the Belfast DJ holding down the beats.
    A shift away from his usual cinematic leanings, The Free Association twists big beat, funk, soul and fucked-up hip-hop into a claustrophobic concoction, which in 2002 sounds pretty damn unique.

"Alright, mmm-hmm, let's do it!" announces Californian Rasta Sean Reveron at the start of Don't Rhyme No Mo. The beats are Lo-Fidelity Allstars, the rapping's Ol' Dirty Bastard. We're talking character here, and it all sounds very fresh . . . and I guarantee you'll be whistling the sweet little flute melody within minutes of hearing this for the first time.
    While Reveron helms one side of the Free Association sound, the other is fronted by Petra Jean Phillipson, whose soulful tones propel tracks like I Wish I Had A Wooden Heart and Pushing A Broom . . . and just to make it clear, we're talking soulful like Billie Holiday, not the anodyne pop that passes for soul nowadays. This is very cool.
    There are more Reveron antics on the spooky Le Baggage. Alternating ascending and descending samples culminate in "I've always been into androids, ever since I was a little one, watching them on TV. Pulling my dad's hair chest, making him scream to see if he was real. He wasn't an android, he was my dad, but I thought he was a fucking android." No, me neither. Large quantities of drugs I suspect.

The more cynical reviewer could pass this off as reheated big beat, and they could even have a point. Does it really matter though, when it's all so engaging, and there isn't a bad track on the CD? Free Ass O-C-8 - the closest we get to a title track - contests "It's time to free associate." I second that emotion.
    Everybody Knows has Reveron and Phillipson teaming up on vocals, ably backed by Holmes and fourth associate, programmer Steve Hilton. This track betrays some of David Holmes' past; sounding like a steroid enhanced version of the music he created for the Ocean's Eleven soundtrack.

The Free Association are out on tour in the next few weeks, and on this performance could well be worth checking out live. David Holmes and crew should be congratulated for trying something a bit different, and pulling it off so successfully. One of the better albums I've heard this year.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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