Archive for the ‘r&b’ tag
Science Fiction is often defined as stories about how people and societies are affected by imaginary scientific developments in the future, but with Science Fiction the latest release from RUWA, the defintion of Science Fiction takes on a whole new meaning. RUWA is named after a place in Zimbabwe, Africa where the largest mass citing of UFO took place and where RUWA finds its inspiration.
RUWA, is a one man show fronted by singer and scientist Adam Rokhsar. Rokhsar considers himself first a visual artist and psycholologist and creating his music is more of a means to an end in expressing that. Rokshar creates his signature sound by blending a combination of homemade software, tape machines and stories he experienced about the complexity of human emotions and how they are depicted and expressed through different phases of life. The sound that ulimately illuminates and is a continuing theme throughout the album is a mix of experimental techno and dance music that is highlighted by jagged edges of electronica meets 90’s house music but Rokshar seems to be trying to cover all his bases by interjecting spurts of R&B and Pop for overall mainstream appeal. Rokhsar’s creative freedom enables him not to approach his work from one perspective or another and it seems like the same applies to his listeners.
“When You Cry”, has a somber, haunting and ethereal beginning, then suddenly without warning seems to morph into something out of the 80’s with the sexy swagger of artists like Prince and Robin Thicke and sprinkles of electronica and synthesization it would be great in the club. On the other hand, “Please Come Over” gives another take on 80’s classics with pop rock.
“Please Come Over” is a mixture of R&B and soul with a fast, sexy beat. Rokshar’s voice has a haunting,raspy feel to it. It is here and with the rest of the album that Rokshar begins with long solos and instrumentals, at times there seems to be more music than vocals and he relies more on the beat and pulse of the music to carry the song through. However, the song is catchy and there are remnants of Peter Gabriel’s early works.
In the end, it seems like Rokshar achieves his goal with RUWA and Science Fiction, he makes the invisible, visible. He lets his listeners create their own images of the music; what it is, how they see it, feel it and hear it and create stories of their own which is what music is all about.
Remember Test Icicles? Back in 2005, the English dance-punk outfit– formed by a trio of teenage boys, as clearly evidenced by their name– released what would ultimately be their first and last LP, For Screening Purposes Only. Just a teenager myself, I really loved that record; playful, bold, and unpretentious, the band’s youth-driven, in-your-face approach managed to capitalize on the explosive (yet short-lived) new rave trend, but also sound completely unlike any other music made that fateful year. But by the time glow sticks and lasers started drifting out of indie rock fashion, Test Icicles had already kicked the bucket. Clearly, the band’s fresh-faced leader, Devonte Hynes, was destined for bigger (and ballsier) things.
Which brings us to Blood Orange, and what is without a doubt one of the year’s very best records, Cupid Deluxe. Working under the name Lightspeed Champion in the late ‘aughts, Dev Hynes pioneered his own brand of folk-inspired indie pop; later, he became the in-demand producer for artists such as Solange and Florence Welch. Now, he’s shifted gears once more, working with vocalists Samantha Urbani and Caroline Polachek throughout his latest effort as the R&B pop project Blood Orange. Smooth, sultry, and effervescent from start-to-finish, Cupid Deluxe is a careful blend of all the things Dev Hynes does so well; which is to say, pretty much everything.
At just twenty-seven, Hynes has already proven himself a master mixer of genres. He can churn out hits for The Chemical Brothers just as easily as he can craft a breakthrough single for a new artist like Sky Ferreira (which he did, with “Everything is Embarrassing”). Most recently, Hynes collaborated with Britney Spears for her not-so-received new studio album, Britney Jean. He’s since confirmed that none of his work made the final album cut. Oh well. That’s Britney’s loss.
Good thing that everything on Cupid Deluxe is our gain. The album drifts from track-to-track like an elegant, well-choreographed dance; songs glide across a slick dance floor of sounds with total, effortless ease. “Uncle Ace” offers toe-tapping funk grooves and classic, soulful vocals, while “You’re Not Good Enough” is full-on groovy, blanketed completely in 80s-style gloss. Tracks like “It Is What It Is” and lush opener “Chamakay” sound exotic yet somehow feel familiar, courtesy of snappy beats and island-inspired instrumentals. Later, London rapper Skepta delivers a solid verse on “Hight Street,” but no matter who or what pops up on Cupid Deluxe, Hynes’ production never fails.
Based in New York City since 2007, Dev Hynes has now created his first near-perfect pop record; like its vaguely seedy album art suggest, Cupid Deluxe is a romantic night out on the town, filled with weird and wonderful surprises along the way.
OFWGKTA affiliates The Internet, led by Syd the Kid and Matt Martians, may be a group of youngsters but they are surely a group of old souls. Their latest music has taken quite the mature turn, with retro soul, mellow jazz, and funk elements. This latest track makes a huge statement in the evolution of their sound, and I think the group is on to something very special. “Dont’cha” is probably the grooviest new track I’ve heard in a while, and definitely a favorite of new tunes this year . They couldn’t have made a better way to hype me up for the full album, due September 25th. Just listen for yourself.
Meek Mill furthers the drama with Kendrick Lamar on this new track.
LA r&b singer-songwriter BANKS joins Jamie Woon and Lil Silva for some new mellow vibes.
Following in the soul-meets-street geneology of artists like James Blake, Brooklyn group RUWA has released an album of glitchy, synthetic beats overlain with chilly vocals that leave claw marks down your ear canal. WEIRDO is a brief but forceful event of an album; a piledrive of R&B by way of NIN. Composed mostly using Ableton Live software, WEIRDO’s greatest strength is probably the balance it manages to find between its live, human components and its digital origins.
There is a distinct hint of new wave vocal pop – something in the vein of Japan, perhaps – to be found in the otherwise computer-composed glitch music of WEIRDO. Fully electronic freak outs like “HELLO MY NAME IS” and “THE SCENE” are set up against palliative R&B tracks that sound almost as though they’re derived from late ‘90s funk music. Indeed, shorn off guitar parts add an element of quiet angst to the otherwise compositionally erudite performances.
“Bad Habit” takes the kind of hyper self-aware electro-pop that a group like Metronomy produces and gives it something of a dark spin. The vocals sound feeble and strange, yes, but their decomposed nature puts them in interesting contrast with the heavier handed Ableton Live electronics. On “Rich Kids” the haunted, Frankensteinian vocals weave in and out of spiky electronics, maneuvering between phantomic warbles and breathy whispers.
By the time you’re hit with the defeated immediacy of “Rain” you will likely have only just started getting a fee for WEIRDO. But the album’s brevity only adds to its cleverly dichotomized dynamic, leaving you truly unsure of exactly what kind of album you’ve just listened to. Ensuring, perhaps, that you will come back to find out.
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Rising Los Angeles songstress Nylo has made friends in high places; Nas and Mac Miller both expressed their admiration soon after the release of her debut single, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The track is a pretty, starry-eyed introduction to an artist that’s aiming to be one part pop prodigy, one part master (or mistress) of minimalist beats. But does her debut, Indigo Summer, actually succeed? Nylo still has miles to go, but she’s getting there, and in Audrey Hepburn- worthy style, no less.
“Getting tired of waiting for love,” Nylo admits on Indigo Summer opener “Nobody Has to Know.” “Fuck what I need/Give me what I want,” she continues, commencing an album-long journey into the dreamiest depths of heartbreak, heartache, and back again. The track features a slick rap verse by Gilberto Forte, sealing the deal on Nylo’s slow, smooth melodic approach. There isn’t a whole lot of variety on Indigo Summer, which wins in terms of vocals (consistently great), hooks, and emotional range, but falters slightly on substance.
While it’s a fair attempt, her bare take on “Blurred Lines,” this summer’s extra-sultry guilty pleasure, is ultimately unsuccessful. While Robin Thicke’s original achieves impossibly catchy heights, Nylo’s version strips the song of all its glossy, glitzy fun. What’s left underneath? Not that all that much.
By far, her best track is shimmering single “Fool Me Once,” which appears early on Indigo Summer and sets an extremely high standard that the rest of the record can’t quite match. Steady yet undeniably dynamic, “Fool Me Once” features a perfect, porcelain beat to carefully support Nylo’s whisper-soft crooning and a gorgeous array of delicate synth sounds. Clearly, this girl has the goods; she doesn’t always deliver them, but when she does, it’s positively enchanting. Feel free to file Nylo under rising star in need of just a bit more finishing polish.
On “Attracting Flies” Aluna Francis sings “little grey fairy tales and little white lies, everything you exhale is attracting flies.” It’s this kind of roundabout approach to conveying a very direct message that characterizes much of AlunaGeorge’s debut LP, Body Language. Bold and expressive electronica camouflaged smartly as “radio friendly” R&B, Body Music manages to express a decadence of texture while remaining fairly low-key and weirdly austere. You could say that AlunaGeorge’s take on R&B exemplifies many aspects of London’s post-dub sect, including a preference for tones and themes that might be considered retrograde (see the goofy organ parts on “Friends To Lovers”). Body Music is obsessed with tradition, but the album always manages to seem more playful than reverent; most impressively, AlunaGeorge seem to be as dedicated to absence as other R&B artists are to excess.
“Kaleidoscope Love” is Body Music’s textural leading man. “Kaleidoscope Love” is an insistence of a song, and it’s one that inarguably proves AlunaGeorge to be something other – something deeper – than a mere pop act. Other tendencies towards the deep and the dark are particularly apparent on tracks like “Body Music” – which sounds kind of like a brighter, bouncier Mount Kimbie – and the minimal “Attracting Flies.” Body Music is a pop album, dominated by Francis’ slim but suave performances, but it’s one whose pop elements don’t preclude it from being as tonally engaging as more “cerebral” fare. Francis’ voice maneuvers some rather daunting non-pop structures and samples, but always manages to make the interaction seem natural and obvious.
Body Music’s upfront style of production gives it a delicious crispness, but an unwillingness to provide for any muted or muddled tones means that all of the songs are fitted to your ears in the exact same way. Musically, nothing is hidden, which means that there isn’t anything to dig for, although the frontspiece of each song is so rich with composition that you wouldn’t even think to do anything other than let Body Music wash over you. Body Music does feel a little longer than it needs to be, though it isn’t necessarily obvious what needs to be trimmed. The “grasping at straws era of a doomed relationship” ballad that is “Just A Touch” might where I’d start, but even that song has edifying moments that unquestionably belong it to the species of “good pop song.”
Body Music is a great album, one borne on the back of wildly inventive but never too obtuse samples and fantastically enunciated lyrics. It’s an album whose songs are mostly good, though – songs that have great moments, sure, but are ultimately solid and not exceptional. And there’s nothing wrong with that: Body Music is a worthwhile listen, and one of the slickest and smartest (see: guilt free) albums of straight up radio R&B to emerge in the 2010s. With one foot wedged firmly in a door to the underground, Body Music is the perfect version of a pop album for people who think they’re too smart to like pop music.
More sunny, fizzy pop goodness courtesy of California sister trio HAIM; “The Wire,” a brand new version of an old track from 2012, pretty much blew up the internet today. It’s hard to believe that these ladies haven’t even released their debut album yet (it’s due out in September). While we wait, the sassy, guitar-pop style of “The Wire” makes a nice preview.
This magic-making duo has been a favorite of mine since first listen a couple of years back, and they’ve not disappointed yet with any of their releases. Their latest release, called “Bad Idea” was debuted last week via Mixmag and it will be featured on their upcoming debut album, Body Music, which seems to be taking eons to finally arrive. This track is a jittery r&b/pop tune with layers upon layers of sounds, as all AlunaGeorge productions thus far. Check out Bad Idea below, and look out for Body Music – coming very soon on July 29th.