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The Freelance Hellraiser - Waiting For Clearance

The Freelance Hellraiser, Waiting For Clearance

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

TO MOST music fans, The Freelance Hellraiser is better known as the mash-up king – the DJ responsible for splicing together The Strokes’ Hard To Explain with Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle. The track, re-christened A Stroke Of Genius, launched a new trend in mashup music-making and has widely been credited with paving the way for the likes of Danger Mouse’s celebrated Beatles/Jay-Z bootleg The Gray Album.

Since that time, The Freelance Hellraiser – aka Roy Kerr – has been building a strong name for himself as a remixer and mashup artist of genuine worth. Yet the arrival of his debut album, Waiting For Clearance, is far from the mashup collection that fans may have been anticipating.

Rather, it’s a coming together of all of his past experiences to create a coherent whole – a collection of original songs that draw from the worlds of dance, rock, indie pop and soul to offer one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

What’s more, Roy’s done it using some pretty impressive help – with vocals supplied by the likes of Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody (a mate since university) as well as former Snow Patrol guitarist Iain Archer and Roy’s wife, Lalula. Helping out on production, meanwhile, are U2 producer Jacknife Lee (another old friend), synth elder statesman Jan (Miami Vice) Hammer and Hugo Nicolson, the man who co-produced Primal Scream’s legendary Screamadelica.

The result is a heady mix – occasionally magnificent, often cheesy to the point of being compulsive, yet constantly evolving and a darn good listen to boot.

Anyone who became mesmerised by former single, I Want You To Know, or the more recent You Can Cry All You Want, with their anthem-style choruses, will know what to expect. But the album is chock full of surprises.

Opening salvo, Waiting For Clearance is an indie-electronic hybrid that contains a Kasabian-style swagger, especially during its epic chorus. The underlying melody and sharp beats are also instantly addictive, ringing out with a confidence that immediately blasts away any reservations you may have had.

Send Me, on the other hand, is a chilled out, mid-tempo dance track that drops a wistful piece of electronica before kicking into gear with a thumping beat. It’s definitely more orientated towards the mainstream dance scene but it’s clever enough not to become bland, repetitive or annoying and works well because of the numerous electronic flourishes that are injected.

Can’t Hide, meanwhile, is one of the ‘80s nostalgists – a gloriously old-school romp featuring the electronic talents of Jan Hammer that sounds like it could have been plucked straight from the Miami Vice soundtrack. You can practically imagine Crockett and Tubbs in action as Hammer drops his trademark electronic loops and warped sound. Given the imminent arrival of the movie, it seems a particularly inspired collaboration.

We Don’t Belong changes pace again, dropping a tantalising mini-sample of Hey Jude and integrating it into a more straightforward rock effort that’s built around spiky guitars, notable vocals and more of those electronic flourishes that seem to add so much to the background.

The distinct vocals of Snow Patrol’s Lightbody appear for the first time on the piano-laced The Sweetest Noise, one of a couple of soulful numbers that also boasts some fine piano chords (think Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, only more slower and chilled). The chorus, in particular, unfolds into an epic masterpiece that thrives on Lightbody’s moody delivery.

The trick is repeated on All I Want, another magnificent Lightbody collaboration, that represents a ballad of sorts – albeit one laced with a much hipper edge than most contemporary efforts. It’s a song to make you ache, while yearning to take hold of the one you love.

The album even ends in near perfect fashion, featuring the one-two of the still-excellent Want You To Know and the more urgent Something You Do To Me, again featuring Lightbody to terrific effect.

With Waiting For Clearance, Roy Kerr achieves what he set out to in spectacular fashion and banishes the term “Mashup King” in the most emphatic fashion. This is a glorious album that really does showcase a whole new creative side to him – one that is equally worth sitting up and taking notice of. It could well become regarded as one of the LPs of the year.

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Track listing:

  1. Waiting For Clearance
  2. Send Me
  3. You Can Cry All You Want
  4. Can’t Hide
  5. We Don’t Belong
  6. The Sweetest Noise
  7. Waves
  8. All I Want
  9. Weightlessness
  10. Want You To Know
  11. Something You Do To Me