Barry Adamson 

The King of Nothing Hill

Few have taken British multi-instrumentalist and composer Barry Adamson's kind of career route because, frankly, few have either his talent or his balls. As a former member of seminal bands like Magazine and the Bad Seeds, he certainly had enough credentials to forge an easy lifestyle as an alt. sideman. But thankfully, when he quit the Bad Seeds fifteen years ago, he apparently went where he needed to after he found rock too stifling: the movies. On The King of Nothing Hill, his sixth solo album, Adamson reclaims his title as master of the modern noir soundtrack (sans film) with enough rhythmic panache to keep your hips in sway.

Adamson has largely taken his cue from moody composers like John Barry and Angelo Badalamenti, and his instrumental releases to this point have seen him bounce intriguingly from darkly ambient rock notions to opaque electronica and aggressive jazz. With King, Adamson both adds influence from blaxploitation composers like Melvin Van Peebles and Lalo Schifrin into the mix, and makes full compositional use of his deep, crooning voice, which evokes a more laid-back version of his old boss, Nick Cave. These elements imbue a gritty, humane bounce to the album's generally murky atmosphere, and posits Adamson as an elegant soul man, striding confidently from one noir scene to the next. Spaghetti-western guitar twangs, bluesy organ lines, and elegant strings slide around in the funk surrounding his husky vocals, and each tune ends by trailing into some aural detritus flitting down a darkened street. The album's kinetic ten-minute centerpiece instrumental, "Le Matin des Noire," runs a found-sound tour of Paris at night over a tight vibes-and-organ-jazz groove. Though King's not perfect -- its last two tracks, "Crime Scene" and "Cold Comfort," get a little tiresome -- it's a solid snapshot of a compelling musical mind.

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