Martina Topley Bird
Some Place Simple
Honest Jon’s / Ipecac Records
By Giles Turnbull
Martina Topley Bird is a name you might have come across, without even knowing. Some Place Simple is her third solo album, but she has been featured on albums by Tricky, David Holmes, Primus and Gorillaz, to name but a few. Her most recent collaboration is with Massive Attack, co-writing and singing on “Psyche” and “Babel” on their new album, Heligoland.
Her solo albums, Quixotic in 2003 and The Blue God in 2008, were cast in the same mould as that Bristol trip-hop vibe, brought to prominence by the likes of Tricky and Massive Attack. Some Place Simple is a minimalist leap away from that sound. There are tracks from both Quixotic and The Blue God, each with the hazy bluesy sci-fi sound of their original scores ripped away; all that remains is the beating heart, to which is added the scantest of percussive and keyboard accompaniments. There are also three new tracks, plus a remix of one of these, although I use the term hesitantly, since everything is so paired back to the bare bones that to call it a remix seems grandiose.
But Some Place Simple is more than just an unplugged reinterpretation of favorite songs; it’s like a restaurant meal deconstructed. If you’re familiar with the original album versions of these songs, you will find these new takes surprising and revealing; like someone sucked all the air out of the room and replaced it with pure oxygen. Where previous albums placed atmosphere to the fore, here it’s the lyrics and the subtle underlying rhythms that take center stage. It’s a fascinating listen if each track is played in turn, first in the original version, and then the one on Some Place Simple; the simplicity of one complements the complexity of the other perfectly.
Martina Topley Bird tours with Massive Attack, playing The Fox Theatre, October 29. Some Place Simple is released October 26.