With all the talk of the ‘Death of Rave’, it’s not surprising that one of the rave-ier of ravers, Essex producer, DJ and remixer Hervé (aka Josh Harvey) has changed course from his dubstep, grime and electro days with second album release Art of Disappearing on his own label Cheap Thrills, March 4.
Incidentally, those days aren’t so far off, considering Hervé’s album debut of club bangers, Pick Me Up, Sort Me Out, Calm Me Down came out less than a year ago. It featured tracks like the pop-conscious ‘How Can I Live Without You (Make It Right)‘, with vocals from electro artist Ronika, and the deep bass of ‘Better than a BMX’. After six years running Cheap Thrills and working under countless aliases -including Speaker Punks, Young Lovers and The Count -it would be fair to say Harvey’s been steering a fairly straight course in aesthetics, until now.
Because this times it’s progressive artists like Austra’s Katie Stelmanis (a highlight at last year’s Field Day) and Not Not Fun/100% Silk pet Maria Minerva taking charge and making it apparent that Harvey’s palate is as varied as that of the globally-influential UK collective, Machines Don’t Care, with whom he’s associated. Boasting Sheffield-born DJ Toddla T and fellow north-east Londoner Sinden, among its membership, that crew is responsible for some interesting collaborations, including the latter’s eminent ‘Get Familiar’ compilation for the FabricLive Series with long-time M.I.A. producer Switch, as well as 2010’s Sinden & The Count album Mega Mega Mega, featuring artists from Rye Rye to The Mystery Jets. So it’s safe to say Harvey’s listening tastes are more diverse than his dance floor work might credit him and it’s on Art of Disappearing where the massive bass lines, catchy-to-the-point-of-garish hooks and pop melodies dissipate into ephemeral compositions. These could easily be lumped into a warped and distorted trip hop sound circa 1999, if not for the flashes of consciousness for dynamics that Harvey, as a veteran DJ, has long-mastered.
For those accustomed to his floor-friendly hits, Art of Disappearing will surely be an unwelcome deviation, but for one partial to nuanced soundscapes that ebb and flow through a track progression that is entirely cohesive in spite of its disparate sonic elements, this is a welcome digression. Maria Minerva’s redolent voice shines for the romance it perpetuates on ‘Gold’, while Stelmanis’ vocal tremolo stresses the concurrent sense of desperation and otherworldliness of ‘Save Me’. A testament to Harvey’s gift as a producer is the grandiose ‘Somebody’, where a band as light as Sweden’s Niki & the Dove manage a soaring affectation. Malin Dahlström’s ghostly vocal lingers just beneath the portly movement of several crude rhythms, cobbled together along a single sensuous current. All of these elements seem to flow out and vanish into the mix, in the same way that album opener ‘Bear’ drifts through and into the wonky ambience of album closer ‘Worry Crow’.
As the man responsible for Ghetto Bass (1 & 2), it’s easy to see where Hervé’s affections lie. Hence, this ode to versatility as Art of Disappearing lives up to its implicit promise of a melt into atmospherics. There’s a sense of conceptual understanding, between words, flow and ideas here that evaporate into an ocean of experience and very human emotion.