Holmes gets funky with The Free Association

Review by Jack Foley

DAVID Holmes has been having a good year. Not content with producing one of the soundtracks of the year, for Ocean's Eleven, and DJing in clubs, the mixer has put together his own band, The Free Association, and delivered a debut album.

Featuring the vocal talents of San Francisco-based rapper, Sean Reveron, and Petra Jean Phillipson, The Free Association is a funky collection of punchy beats, scintillating samples and varying moodswings which, for the most part, make for an incredibly rewarding listen.

XfM have already picked out track two, I Wish I Had A Wooden Heart, as a favourite, and it is easy to see why. Laidback, dirty and downright moody, the track benefits from a truly memorable vocal show from Phillipson, who I've heard described as being like 'Billie Holliday on steroids'. With lyrics such as 'I wish I had a wooden heart, that I could set on fire', this is pretty incendiary stuff and easily one of the highpoints of the CD.

Opening track, Don't Rhyme No More, featuring Reveron, sets the mood well, combining funk with moody blues and a raw rapping style, but, curiously, it is one of the few times that Reveron's voice works to great effect. Elsewhere, in tracks such as Le Baggage, with its surreal, orchestral backdrop, Revron seems a little exposed and not always up to the task.

He even reverts to a somewhat cockney style for Free Ass O-C-8, a slinky, downtempo, introduction to the Free Association, which features some nice hammond organ throughout, while the ultra-funky Everybody Knows finds the singer back on form, backed by some suitably aggressive beats and samples (which also features Phillipson).

On the whole, though, the CD works best when using Phillipson, as her voice is so completely sultry, and so addictive, that you can't help but raise an appreciative smile. Somedays is a classic example of an old-school vocal style, complemented by a lazy score that wouldn't sound out of place on a movie, while Pushin' A Broom, with its wonderfully laidback jazz/soul vibe, is just great for chilling out to.

Holmes first conceived the idea of creating The Free Association as a means of bringing his music to a live audience, and on the strength of this, catching up with them should be great fun. The contrasting mix of styles and beats makes for a diverse, yet busy listen, which may not seem accessible at first, but deliver more with each listen.

My personal favourite, however, is the track in which Holmes is left to his own devices. Paper Underwear (track nine) is a glorious, folk-inspired throwback to 69 Police days, which just screams out to be played over and over. It is little wonder that mix engineer, Michael Patterson, is to be found as a collaborator, given that he has worked with the likes of Beck and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club recently. Paper Underwear, like the album it is taken from, oozes style.

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Track listings:

1. Don't Rhyme No Mo
2. I Wish I Had A Wooden Heart
3. Le Baggage
4. Free Ass O-C-8
5. Somedays
6. Everybody Knows
7. Pushin' A Broom
8. La Dolce Vita
9. Paper Underwear
10. Whistlin' Down The Wind