A solid return
Speech Debelle - Freedom of Speech

A few years on from the broadsheet love-in, her Mercury Prize win and an unedifying disagreement with the label that helped get her there; Speech Debelle’s unhurried return radiates maturity in more ways than one. Back with Big Dada, and drawing on the experiences of the last few years, ‘Freedom Of Speech’ carries the same lithe-lipped style that captured the Mercury judges’ imagination but beefed by the production work of the increasingly impressive Kwes, her typically bold wordplay hits with controlled purpose.

Where ‘Speech Therapy’ was an impressive display of razor-sharp observational lyricism and delivery, ‘Freedom Of Speech’ works beyond the lyrical reliance. Armed with rich, booming backdrops, live analogue beats and rising string flourishes, she works the ever-awkward business of injecting nods to the sensitive and self-referential expertly, her words coming across more contemplative than indulgently pious.

That’s not to say the fire’s been extinguished with the advent of the introspective - the admittedly politicised ‘Collapse’ and London riots-inspired ‘Blaze Up A Fire’ kick the ire up a notch, and neat turns of tempo in the Arrested Development lilt of ‘Shawshank’ and the busy, improvisational rhythms of ‘The Problem’ also ensure that the album doesn’t settle for too long.

But for the all the new approaches, closer ‘Sundog’ is the most unforeseen. A moody, atmospheric seven-minute slow-build of instrumental post rock, it doesn’t quite hit Godspeed… heights but is enough of an unexpected departure to standout. An unlikely end to a solid return.



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