What happens when a recovering techno artist mimics Otis Redding so well that his conceptual motivations and designs cancel out in the end? It's hard to say, exactly, but it's easy to marvel at results as sneaky and shocking as those on Multiply.
An Englishman now living in Berlin, Jamie Lidell has become known for antic live shows during which he vamps and tramps through multimedia revivals. On Multiply, though, he ditches the electronic dressing for a straight soul suit. Or does he? Multiply ultimately settles down as an electronic Warp album, but only after four or five listens, when its subtle jump-cuts and rhythmic ripples reveal themselves as a little too weird to be wholly organic. More immediately striking are Lidell's jaw-dropping vocal performances, which slide between Sly Stone, Otis Redding, and Stevie Wonder like a '70s radio DJ playing midnight rotation while setting his Jheri curl. That may read like a preening genre exercise (or worse, Jamiroquai), but it sounds too real and accomplished to write off.
Over a band time-warped from Stax-era Memphis, Lidell sounds like he's having an out-of-body experience on the title track, on which he sings, "I'm so tired of repeating myself." It's the lament of a restless electronic musician looking to move past prescribed ambitions, but it's also a signal of style-breaks to come. Lidell wiggles and writhes convincingly over everything from sci-fi funk ("When I Come Back Around") to falsetto work songs ("A Little Bit More") without ever dropping his guard. How he makes good on such a seemingly noxious premise remains a mysteryin one song, he refers to himself as a "walking, talking question mark"but Lidell's star shines from whatever angle it might be spied.