Skinny Pelembe is a positive guy. His debut album ‘Dreaming is Dead Now’ is a celebration of post-recession Britain, embracing all the flaws and contradictory realities of a country trying to sort itself out. Everything might be a bit shit, but there is still plenty to get behind. Musically the album is a melting pot and shows Pelembe’s love of trippy folk and hip-hop equally. The fact that Malcom Catto was behind the producer’s desk should attest to this.
‘Spit-Swallow’ sums up ‘Dreaming is Dead Now’, opening with a catchy riff and loop before his haunting vocals envelope us. As things progress Pelembe gently draws us into an all-consuming world of laidback guitars, abrasive and rhythmic loops, with a voice that sugar coats everything, making it far more palatable than it should be.
‘My Love is Burning, Down’ is flawless – the final third is possibly the standout moment of the entire album. Pelembe is confident enough in his song writing just to let the music do the talking. As beats, claps and stutters swim around us, creating melodic maelstroms that conjure up classic Mo Wax and Ninja Tune releases. Things might be chill, but there is a vibe of disaffected malaise and anger just bubbling under the surface.
Effectively ‘Dreaming is Dead Now’ is the sound of ‘60s West Coast folk being fed into a sampler, loops and beats are created while Pelembe’s laconic vocals float over the finished track. And it’s the vocals that are the star of the album. At times powerful and timeless, at other times they reduce to almost hushed whispers – there is a quality to his voice that keeps you hooked. This is the power of Skinny Pelembe and ‘Dreaming is Dead Now’.
The album works best when you just go with it and let it carry you wherever it wants. Pelembe’s lyrics are insightful but vague. Despite the title, he suggests that dreaming actually isn’t dead at all, and if so – why not dream big? Finally an album we can all get behind.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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