Somnambule - Writing About Music

Burnt Friedman and the Nu Dub Players ~ Can’t Cool

Clipped. Funked. ‘F*** Back’. ‘Can’t Cool’. Monosyllabic. Not quite sensical. Everything shorn, smoothed, streamlined into a form that narrowly resists apprehension. “After so many years. People stop. They f*** back.” Other instruments – sax, guitar – swim along in the slipstream. Inimitable Friedman. This is the sound of a sleek new car cutting you up and leaving you way behind in a trail of anger and dust.

“ This one’s dedicated to the children of love… the children of god…” Abi’s impassioned delivery on Fly Your Kite lies uncomfortably across synthetic, over-compressed beats. Dub rises to the surface on Paternoster: vocals echo and break apart, only to return reassembled into new shapes. Funk, breakbeat, dub and now a new shape, messy and unpredictable – never knowing whether the beat will rocksteady out or break up in static… ‘How’s it feel when music moves the soul?’

‘ Gets Things Strait’ lays vocals from Patrice Bart-Williams over and around the reprised melody of a Flanger track which ultimately feels like an entirely new track. “Looks like the whole world is falling apart, a small scratch to remind you of the next track.” The revisit gets revisited later in a dub version which brings everything together into a rickety, wheezing falling-apartness.

His Name Is Alive join Friedman on the eighth track ‘Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth’ which signals the end of the vocal element of the album – four instrumentals bring up the rear leaving a strange impression after the expressiveness of the guest singers - like when a band carries on playing after their vocalist has taken a bow and left the stage.

Consider A Bigger Wallet is an instrumental version of Fly Your Kite and without the vocals it’s clear how melodic the track and by extension the whole album is. There’s a moment when the breakbeat rhythm seamlessly eases into a reggae beat before almost immediately returning to the plucked, strummed, echoing, horn-sectioned whole and you realise how rich this sound is, how detailed and how effortless sounding. What seemed initially to be straightahead and smooth is revealed to be complex and detailed and a real work of art(ifice?)

Burnt Friedman appears to have put aside his penchant for shapeshifting games and jazz, but perhaps it’s still lurking there deep down under the mellifluous tones and guest vocals. Can’t Cool is a heavier, more richly melodic sound than his previous music.

After a long silence a voice intones “44 degrees Centigrade in the shade” – summer’s coming on - is that Burnt Friedman lurking there in the shadows? Gone. He’s a moving target tracing an unpredictable musical odyssey, impossible to nail down in one place. What will be his next missive from the other side of irony?
Colin Buttimer
June 2003
Published by the BBC