From the Basement: Esthero
From the Basement #1
Esthero/Breath From Another
The Work Group/Sony
Breath From Another was released in 1998, and I think I picked it up not long after that. Having heard Country Livin' (The World I Know) on a comp, I couldn't wait to hear a full album of this duo's fresh take on electronic pop/trip hop. Esthero is the name of a duo but also the adopted stage name of Jenny Englishman, a young Canadian singer with an incessant love for urban music. Mostly what sucks me into this album and won't let me go is that voice. A hybrid of Bjork and Beth Gibbons but full of youth and sexiness, Esthero layers her vocals with her partner Doc's intense programming and engineering wizardry. The partnership generates an irony of sorts as Esthero's voice could easily find its place amidst almost any genre of music. Whether it be at a folk festival, coming from the depths of a true pop diva, or melting brilliantly into Doc's jazzy manifestation of R&B and hip hop beats, her voice has depth and true soul.
Their closest relatives being Morcheeba, Bjork and Portishead they rely mostly on pop, urban and electronica for their influences. But those comparisons mean only what the word relative implies. This is not an album that is a rehashing of those artists who were innovators and prototypes, but an even more bass and electronic heavy version. I'm a firm believer that it's pointless to listen to a lesser form of the original when you have the true form available to you in the first place. There aren't many albums that I would place alongside Breath From Another in terms of similarities, and that is a huge turn on for me when it comes to what I listen to.
This is an album that truly has it all: rock, jazz, pop, and lounge. Even the inclusion of a male and female rap part in the first track, Breath From Another is backed with fierce talent, as is the Latin-infused Half a World Away. The balance between contributors and the various instruments (such as horns, guitars and keyboards) creates texture and flow in an album that has been mixed with amazing precision, making it hard to sever one song from its arrangement on the album and single it out for observation.
Crafted in genuine "indie" fashion…on their own, with the help of friends in an apartment "studio" they managed to produce a true reflection of two selves. One self being a soulful, beautiful singer and the other an intricate programmer and guitarist hell-bent on perfection. To take a quote from Esthero's website, "the soothing song of a woman-child is carried aloft on the wings of a madman". This is one of those rare albums that must be listened to from start to finish, whether on a long car ride, during a party, or lounging at home late at night…it's one of those albums that conforms and blends into an atmosphere, as music should. But instead of merely blending into an atmosphere, Esthero contributes to its creation.
Aside from countless collaborations on various artists tracks, soundtracks and compilations, neither Esthero the singer or Esthero the duo have managed to bring us a sophomore album. According to EstheroOnline.com, there are tracks being recorded for a new album, but whether that will be a solo effort or as a follow-up to Breath From Another, I don't know. But after five years of owning this album, it hasn't bored me yet, I just hope that one day, they pop up out of obscurity and blow me away all over again.
- Stephanie Haselman | 2003-05-29
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