Very Mercenary cover

Very Mercenary


Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry’s hip-hop outfit The Herbaliser was a cornerstone of Ninja Tune for ten years and five studio albums, and LP #3 Very Mercenary is where their mixture of NYC-indebted funk/jazz breaks and Cool Britannia retroisms hit its finest balance. There’s an unmistakable suspense-film undercurrent to it all — not just from What What (b/k/a Jean Grae) relaying secret-agency skirmishes in post-intro kickoff “Mission Improbable,” but the nods to film scores of ’70s actioners in instrumentals like the twangy-yet-percussively clobbering “Goldrush,” the melting-brass heatbox “Who’s the Realest?” and the twitchy-nerved crime jazz of “The Missing Suitcase.” Throw in some Apollo-era lunar intrigue (“Moon Sequence”), big-band swagger turned melodramatically mournful (“Shattered Soul”), and the kitschy exotica of early ’70s sex positivity (“The Sensuous Woman”), and you’ve got the kind of vibe Guy Ritchie would endlessly chase yet never quite nail even half as well. Meanwhile, Invisibl Skratch Piklz turntablism tribute “Wall Crawling Giant Insect Breaks” and appearances from trans-Atlantic alt-rap royalty like Bahamadia, Dream Warriors, and Roots Manuva prove that the Herbaliser rock Adidas tracksuits and BAPE camo just as comfortably as Savile Row suits.

Nate Patrin