This release from Hollie Cook follows up her debut album (2011) and its excellent dub version (2012) (see reggaemusic.org.uk 29th April 2012) in fine style. ‘Twice’ displays a highly confident approach to reggae and its many influences, incorporating elements of style from the past several decades. Many of the songs here are offered at relatively modest tempo and with some deliberation. Along with the contributions of several guests including Dennis Bovell, Horseman and of course Mike Pelanconi (Prince Fatty) it all falls into place. The opener ‘Ari Up’ tenderly recalls the late punk/dub/reggae frontwoman of the Slits, a band of which Hollie Cook herself was a latter-day member: it starts in a madrigal sort of style and continues with some unpredictable key changes within a crystal-clear production. The quality of the opener sets the tone for the rest of the album. There are the squeaks and beeps of synths from the 70s and 80s throughout. There are also some unexpected string arrangements, for instance on ‘99’ and ‘Looking for Real Love’, that serve to recall cop programmes where Cagney and Lacey would power along a New York backstreet before driving through a pile of boxes that had unaccountably been left in the middle of the road. But this all works. The different styles and arrangements come together, underpinned by a strong but relatively subtle reggae rhythm that is all the more effective for being understated.
The underlying rhythm tracks are strong, as in ‘Tiger Balm’, a melodic reggae song worthy of dub attention. ‘Postman’ (the second single release from the album) is another strong melodic track, opening with steel percussion that asserts itself further as the song proceeds. The album closes with ‘Win or Lose’, its synth sounds much in evidence and sweet multi-tracked vocals propelling it through to a pleasing close.
Hollie Cook ‘Twice’, release May 2014