Hull based trip-hop collective The Broken Orchestra centre around producers Pat Dooner and Carl Conway-Davis who work alongside musicians and vocalists to complete their ambitious tracks. It’s easy to reduce The Broken Orchestra to a simple set of trip-hop archetypes e.g. Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheeba and Lamb and though there’s no mention of these artists in their press materials or interview with Groovement I’d say that is a fair comparisons to make.

Interestingly the duo originally set out to make music for film, adverts and T.V. but more song based ideas presented themselves and after releasing a couple of singles they soon found themselves working on “Shibui”. Film music does seem to be a strong influence on their aesthetic and the music is very evocative of landscapes as well as reflecting the emotional content of the lyrics. The album’s production is thoroughly modern but throws in vinyl crackle and classic instrumentation such as Rhodes piano and Hammond organ, causing it to have a Trans-Atlantic feel with the classic soul, funk and hip-hop of America paired with a very North English sound that evokes the Yorkshire countryside and gritty urban city of Hull.

 The album is bookended by two instrumental tracks; starting with the twinkling melodies of ‘Intro’ and finishing with the crackly atmosphere and mournful violin of the album’s title track. Sandwiched between are the album’s eight vocal-lead tracks. Beginning with their debut single ‘Over and Over’ featuring Natalie Gardiner and a subtle hip-hop backing set off by picked acoustic guitar and piano, later a trumpet takes over as the central melodic instrument showcasing the song writing and arrangement skills of Dooner and Conway-Davis. Next is another highlight in ‘Reach The Stars’ featuring rapper Lady Paradox backed by sharp hip-hop beats and guitar melodies. Another track that really stood out was ‘In The Same Way’ featuring the unique vocals of Lauren Jade, the closet comparison I can manage is that of jazz singer Fontella Bass though this doesn’t fully describe her distinctive voice. Then there’s the duo’s second single ‘Closer’ featuring Anna Stott with a pared back drum break, subtle yet deep bass line and punchy guitar riff. The last of the highlights is ‘Fine Balance’ featuring Belle with its uptempo drum break, smoky yet high vocals, Rhodes piano and reverse effects complimenting each other nicely.

 The only real criticism I have of “Shibui” is the use of the same instrumentation and a lack of variety of tempos mean that it starts to wane over the last few tracks. It would have been good to have some more up tempo songs like ‘Reach The Stars’ and ‘Fine Balance’ as would hearing more of Lady Paradox’s rapping skills to add variety. Overall this is an album that delivers on all fronts, matching production prowess with skilful song writing and a strong aesthetic.

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