Nick Faber … presents The Lost Highway Tapes

It’s always a problem reviewing albums from bands like Biffy Clyro or Foals: you know the sound, you expect the quality, and unless they cover Agadoo badly, you’re not going to be surprised. It might be the pinnacle of musical perfection, but it’s hard to get worked up about.

The flipside is that albums from unknowns are brilliant, and a pleasure to play. This is one of those.

Perhaps not surprising: Nick Faber is neither young nor inexperienced: he’s a record producer and the genesis for this album was a road-trip in the 90s, when he came cross a weathered busker in his late 50s, playing blues on a steel guitar.

Faber forgot the busker when he got home but, 20 years later, came across a singer busking in London, and it all came back. This album is the result, and that second busker is on here.

We were expecting an earnest blues album, but you’d not really think of blues for much of the album; it’s more breakbeat and it’s got soul, funk and disco aplenty. There’s as much heavy riffage and pop strumming as blues.

We think Faber looped most of the rhythms, either playing the beat himself and repeating, or just via programming (or he’s got a more metronomic drummer than New Order’s Stephen Morris). The drumming is always tight and crisp, often breakbeat and while it’s distinctive, it’s what else is going on that makes the songs good.

The standout song is Something To Say, one of the simpler beats but a hypnotic earworm of a tune. The overall sound reminds us of Edwyn Collins’ A Girl Like You. Also excellent is the Stevie Wonder-ish Sensational, a funky soul tune as luscious as anything Wonder ever did. Sensational is nearly as good as its title: tight beat, repetitive guitar and a pulsing feel.

There is some blues – Soon You’ll Be Mine is a nippy number featuring guitar and harmonica, and Search And You’ll Find is funky blues. The instrumental Packing Case Blues on the other hand is less blues and more cheery soundtrack to programme about life on a canal boat. It’s not the only instrumental: The Sickness is a funky disco number that reminded us of Deodato’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Highway To The Stars, one of slower tunes, is an Air-style ambient late night chillout song, but with a good beat. Possibly not a classic but certainly an album you could grow very fond of; we must have played it 40 times so far and have not wearied of it yet.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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