Neneh Cherry returns with Blank Project

Neneh Cherry (WENN.COM)

Neneh Cherry (WENN.COM)

Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:47 PM ET

Who's looking -- AND sounding -- good today?

That'd be Neneh Cherry, who made a major impression with her hip-hop-dance 1989 hit, Buffalo Stance, from her much-heralded debut Raw Like Sushi.

The Swedish singer-songwriter-rapper - turning 50 on March 10 - is back with her first solo album in 18 years, the avant garde electronica-fuelled Blank Project, which includes a duet with countrywoman and pop star Robyn.

"(I was) bringing up kids and bringing up myself," said Cherry of her long solo music absence despite many other musical collaborations over the last decade and a half.

"Like don't forget I started when I was 16 (when she moved back to England after her nomadic family, including stepdad-jazz musician Don Cherry, had moved to New York). And a lot of stuff happened. So I think I got to the end of the third album (1996's Man) and I was just like, 'Well, I'm not that kind of a person or human being that just wants to hire people to take care of the people that I need the most.'"

We caught up with Cherry down the line from her Stockholm home where she was making an 18th birthday dinner for Mabel, her youngest of three daughters, and her second child with second husband-musical collaborator Cameron McVey (Massive Attack), with whom she also has a stepson with from his previous relationship.

Your bio says some of the Blank Project songwriting came out of personal tragedy.

A. I lost my mother four years ago and I just kind of lost a grip on everything for awhile. The continuity, the constant thing that I've had with my mother, and that kind of invisible umbilical cord, which I suppose it's still there. I'm so conscious of what that is in relation to my own daughters in another way. I definitely spiralled out but then did a full turn and then all of a sudden it was like, I think, I woke up like maybe a year later and felt like my sense of smell was coming back and my brain, I felt like I had memory loss for year, totally dysfunctional in the head. I survived because of love. Because of people that I love that loved me back. My family, my friends, but I also knew if I didn't get into my soul and do some searching, I would never start to heal.

Blank Project was recorded in a mere five days in Woodstock, N.Y., at the homebase of producer Kieran Hebden (stage name Four Tet) but you also wrote with (synth-drum duo) RocketNumberNine (London brothers Tom and Ben Page).

They haven't really worked with singers before, which I suppose was a sort of interesting challenge for them and for me, and for Cam, and for some of the other people who were part of the writing of the album. They just really had to kind of like the sound - like an electronic sound but hard, also kind of tribal and beautiful and also very organic and quite stripped down.

It seems so right that Robyn, 34, would appear with you on a new song, in this case Out of the Black, almost like a passing of the torch. But will your and her fans be surprised that it's not an uptempo dance track?

I think it was so right to not do that and do something that makes it a bit more meaningful. It's more of a melancholy piece. It's a bit deeper and I think that for both of us there is something quite relevant in that it is like that. And that it's not just a piece where we are kind of jumping up and down. It's quite connecting.

You doing a brief February-March European tour. What about crossing the pond?

A. I'm really pushing. I've played so little of that side of the world so it's going to happen, like I'm hoping by the autumn or something like that. That's my dream ticket. I mean, c'mon, it's about time. I won't let it NOT happen.

 


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