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Album: Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine

Album: Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine

Murphy and long time Sheffield comrade deliver the disco goods

Róisín Machine: disco deluxe

This is a musical homecoming for Róisín Murphy, both geographically and figuratively. She may have been raised in Dublin and spent her gig-going adolescence in Manchester, but Sheffield is where she began her life as a clubber and performer – and it’s with Sheffield scene mainstay of almost four decades, and Murphy’s friend of quarter of a century, Richard “Parrot” Barratt that she’s collaborated here.

This is a musical homecoming for Róisín Murphy, both geographically and figuratively. She may have been raised in Dublin and spent her gig-going adolescence in Manchester, but Sheffield is where she began her life as a clubber and performer – and it’s with Sheffield scene mainstay of almost four decades, and Murphy’s friend of quarter of a century, Richard “Parrot” Barratt that she’s collaborated here. And Murphy may have explored all kinds of experimental and pop styles, but the place where she’s always been at her most confident (not that she lacks confidence anywhere) is on the dancefloor, which, perhaps ironically in a time when we can’t go out dancing, is precisely where this record is aimed.

Barratt is an extraordinary talent. As DJs at Sheffield’s Jive Turkey in the 1980s, he and Winston Hazel were way ahead of the acid house boom in getting mixed audiences moving to soulful electronics. As a producer, among other projects, in Sweet Exorcist he made some of the UK’s greatest ever techno records, with All Seeing I he worked with Sheffield royalty Tony Christie, Jarvis Cocker and Phil Oakey, and latterly as Crooked Man, though he is long since divorced from clubland, he has distilled the bittersweet spirit of early house music, and turned it into a heady blend with dramatic songwriting and deluxe production.

The pair first worked together over 20 years ago, but this project began with the opening track here “Simulation” made in 2012 during Murphy’s extended maternity leave between albums. In the last year, they’ve followed it with a few more singles – and now this album. On it, Barratt is leaning heavily into disco, through which Murphy prowls and struts with more assurance than Jay-Z at his own birthday party. It never feels retro, though. Barratt understands that disco is and was always voraciously hybrid and abstract music, with string swoops, guitar chops or handclaps as strange and psychedelic as any electronic tones – and that abstraction and strangeness will always be modernist. But the strangeness is not at the expense of instant pleasure: the groove is of course paramount, but every individual part is a hook in its own right.

And Murphy’s lyrics are abstracted too, in many senses. There’s autobiography and self-analysis, as well as a running theme of a battle against the quotidian - wanting "Something More" - but it’s so loaded with grandiosity and intensity it starts to feel like a tumble of mythic images. Like her closest musical relative Grace Jones, Murphy is her own most important artwork, and like Jones she has painted herself as regal. You’re welcomed into Queen Róisín’s world, but never allowed to forget that it is hers. That said, the opulence of the music, the strength of her voice, the untold hooks, all delight constantly. From beginning to end, Murphy may be taking pleasure in her own majesterial presence but so can you. A triumph.

@joemuggs

Watch the video for "Something More":

There’s autobiography and self-analysis, but it’s so loaded with grandiosity and intensity it starts to feel like a tumble of mythic images

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