Although Everything but the Girl only recently began to flirt with
electronic music coming to the genre later than such trip-hop
pioneers as fellow Brits Portishead and Massive Attack their
ninth studio album, Temperamental, finds the duo firmly entrenched
in the dance-club sound.
On Temperamental, released Tuesday, singer Tracey Thorn and
keyboardist/guitarist Ben Watt combine deep drum & bass with heavy house
beats and jazzy, synthetic sounds.
The aptly named Watt said in an e-mail interview it was the experience
of working with techno-wise artists Howie B and Spring Heel Jack on EBTG's
previous album, Walking Wounded (1996), that led to the band's
current style. The sound also was influenced by the three years Watt has
just spent as a DJ, spinning house and drum & bass at London's Bar Rumba
and at the Notting Hill Arts Club.
"DJ techniques offer fresh ideas to any producer schooled on traditional
recording and arranging techniques," wrote Watt, 37, whose guitar and
keyboard playing provide a musical bed for Thorn's vocals. "Cross-fades,
backspins, filtering, motor stops, suspension of mood all these
fed into Temperamental."
For instance, deep house beats drive the album's Watt-composed opener,
"Five Fathoms" (RealAudio
excerpt). But over the rhythms, Thorn adds the human touch,
recounting the nocturnal life of a London club-goer in an airy voice:
"I walk the city late at night/ Does everyone here do the same?/ I want
to be the things I see."
On the energetic title track, the line "I don't want you to love me,"
sung by Thorn, was sampled to echo and loop over and over.
Watt, who DJ'd rough versions of some songs from Temperamental
while they were still in production, wrote that he came up with the idea
of sampling Thorn's lyrics while DJing. Thorn, who is also 37, just
happened to hear it from the dance floor and was enthusiastic. "She loved
it. It was all part of an ongoing process to change the way people heard
her," wrote Watt.
The duo first recorded the drum & bass track "Blame" (RealAudio
excerpt) with Massive Attack for the 1997 film "Sarajevo." That
version was scrapped, but it was resurrected for Temperamental,
with frenetic beats and bass provided by J Majik of Metalheadz.
Other guests on the album include the Washington, D.C., house-music duo
Deep Dish, who remixed the EBTG hit "Wrong" in 1997, and produced
a new version of the 1997 Watt-and-Thorn instrumental "The Future of the
excerpt). Of working with Deep Dish, Watt wrote, "They are deep,
fat and dark in a totally accessible way."
Slower songs, such as the bluesy, jazzy "Low Tide of the Night," and
"No Difference," with its soft horns, are more reminiscent of the sedate
pop that had characterized EBTG, who are best known for their 1996 pop
smash "Missing" (RealAudio
According to Watt, the band's arrangement and production of its music
may have shifted into the electronic realm over the years, but its core
sound has remained the same. "People say that, in spite of new dance
grooves, we still sound the same," Watt wrote. "I always respected Miles
Davis for his ability to move through styles and bands and grooves and
yet always sound like himself."
The band will be headlining shows in Europe in the fall and heading to
North America for a tour early next year.