The Free Association
Record label: 13 Amp (UK)
Release date: February 2003
David Holmes is the epitome of eclectic tastes and how to have fun showing them off. Some of us got to know him through his earlier albums, sporting colorful titles like Let’s Get Killed and This Film’s Crap, Let’s Slash The Seats. A larger audience would hear his music via the film Out of Sight, for which he wrote the film score. Never one to rest on his laurels, he debuted his own label imprint 13 Amp last year by releasing a mix CD called Come Get It, I Got It, revealing his love for ‘60s funk. The Free Association is his latest offering, with Holmes introducing a four-piece band. The album seems to draw from all of his past musical experiences: films, funk , and electronica. Put simply, this is sonic gumbo.
The most obvious difference from his previous albums is that virtually all of The Free Association features vocals, which doesn’t hinder the experience one bit. In fact, it’s a welcome change for Holmes, who now has a chance to display his collaborative side. Besides, the featured voices contain much personality. Sean Reveron MCs over dirty and cluttered breaks on “Don’t Rhyme No More,” then totally flips it for the slow groove of “Free Ass O-C-8” - half Mother Goose, half Dr. Seuss. “Free the ABCs, don’t wait / free the peas upon my plate / it’s not too late, so go create / it’s time to free ass-o-ci-ate.” A number of songs feature the able-voiced Petra Jean Philipson, who has been described as a “21st Century Billie Holiday.” Her voice doesn’t have enough grit to be the new Billie, but she is reminiscent of the vocal styles of Martina Topley Bird (the former sultry counterpart to Tricky’s gritty larynx) and Roisin Murphy of Moloko. If you like those two vocalists, then you’ll dig Petra’s presence, particularly on numbers like “I Wish I Had A Wooden Heart” and the horn-propelled soul of “Pushin’ A Broom.” Much like Tricky and Martina, Petra Jean’s voice adds a sweet contrast to Sean Reveron’s abrasive growls – check “Everybody Knows” for an example.
It may not be necessary to like the blues in order to get into The Free Association, but it certainly helps. There’s a future primitive blues angle being worked throughout this album, especially during Petra Jean’s selections. And the few instrumentals that are on this album are stellar (“Paper Underwear” immediately comes to mind). It’s so often that you hear David Holmes on his own that one wouldn’t think of him as part of a band. But this project opens ears and minds upon first listen. The eclectic spirit of Holmes wins again.