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Roisin Murphy: Ruby Blue

Roisin Murphy: Ruby Blue

Label:Echo U.K.
Release Date:2005

By Jess Harvell | Posted 9/7/2005

Roisin Murphy was the lead singer for U.K. trip-hoppers Moloko. She could do the 1,000-yard stare over autistic hip-hop breaks of so much trip-hop, but more often than not, she was vamping over stumbling, fitful beats that shook off any easy classification. Sometimes they were a little too fitful for their own good, with Murphy pulling silly, scatting voices.

But Ruby Blue, her first solo album, is a triumph. Produced entirely by sampler god Matthew Herbert, it flits between torch-song wistfulness and bumping dance music, though the beats remain too slippery to be called “house” or “R&B.” On lead single “If We’re in Love,” a disco-boogie bass line gets brushed by clicking snares and Murphy offers the good advice that “if we’re in love, we should make love.” A gorgeous trumpet line cuts through early morning fog on “Sinking Feeling.” The title track drops a nasty, fuzzed-out bass line that sounds like a slowed-down “Peter Gunn Theme,” as Murphy saucily advises us to “check this out” before the chorus drops.

Murphy duets with herself throughout. Herbert hacks her vocals into stutters, hesitations, and inhalations, arranging them in the mix like a mosaic or turning them into new rhythms. And there are plenty of his signature clicks and glitches, but always in the service of rhythm or melody. On closing ballad “Closing of the Doors,” Murphy’s plaintive vocal is carried by nothing more than a simple acoustic piano line. Ruby Blue is a masterpiece of ProTool-ed multitracking, but at its heart is that most archaic of ideas—classic songwriting.

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