I tend to view concept albums with suspicion so when XL chief Richard Russell’s Everything is Recorded project landed in our inbox, complete with explanation that here was an exploration of Friday nights (the songs even have timings of the evening as part of their timings) my eyes slanted and in a Clint Eastwood way, the sun flashed against my face (I may be over-egging it here) and I sat down to listen.
Russell has considerable form in the music world, from owning one of the worlds foremost record labels, to producing rave and house records, to his other musical ventures such as Everything is Recorded. He’s drafted in a stellar set of collaborators including long term EIR collaborator Infinite Coles alongside Maria Somerville, as well as South London’s FLOHIO and James Massiah, the Manchester rapper Aitch, Trinidad-born Berwyn, Ireland’s Kean Kavanagh, Staten Island rap god Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan, west London’s A.K. Paul and a rare contribution from the anarcho punk legend Penny Rimbaud of Crass.
I don’t know if the theme seems a little weak or a little wide, or if it were meant as a means of holding together these disperate artists into a whole, but it doesn’t. However, as a set of loosely themed songs based around a general rule of trying to get through / enjoy a Friday night, And trying to map it out based on some timing, it does work.
After the opening, little more than an introduction, 10:51/THE NIGHT Berwyn leads the way setting the scene over this sort of world/gospel feel with his warm, deliberate rapping and soulful pipes, while the band deliver this sort of Arctic Monkeys riff to tie it together.
From that point it’s an enjoyable enough romp. Aitch does his thing with aplomb over this scratchy, stuttering beat, and FLOHIO rips it up over a dub beat. Ghostface proves to be the ultimate pro in 03:15/CAVIAR never just phoning in his verses, although alongside the side cast it almost reeks of emptying the phone book. The result is this bouncing hook that he decorates, so even if it was, the result justifies the means in my book.
There are some lovely moments within the record as well, 04:21/THAT SKY and its follow on 05:10/DREAM I NEVER HAD are both frankly gorgeous with smoky, slightly claustrophobic production and James Messiah and A.K. Paul both outstanding.
What I’ve learnt is, don’t push some sort of artistic view of a theme onto a piece of musical art. This stands up on its own, is packed with interest and melody and (yes) atmosphere. There’s nothing deep and particularly meaningful here, it’s just a damn good pop record. So my metaphorical reviewers gun remains firmly planted in its holster.