Here we are on a weekend where people look to the past sacrifices of others that have enabled us to have the rights and freedoms we have today. Music was one of those threatened freedoms, and we should never forget that for some, even the act of making music can be dangerous and political in itself. With that, on to the roundup, which has a heavy emphasis on downtempo and electro this week!
Denisse Takes is first up this week with her track Surround Me Now. With its foundations in the trip hop style, the song manages to bring something new to the game; it’s slow, rhythmic intensity underpinned by loops of ominous beauty and almost tribal drums to deliver a track that is more cinema noir than blockbuster. Takes – who is funding her new album via Kickstarter – cites artists as diverse as Fiona Apple and Portishead as influences and it shows through in a song where vocals and lyrics are as important as music in creating a captivating soundscape.
It’s a welcome return to the Roundup for FYOHNA, following up their track Believe You with the chilled and catchy Called It Love. Katarina Gleicher and producer Elliot Glasser once again deliver the goods with their wry take on a downtempo-infused sound, eschewing the mood-driven pitfalls of the genre by focussing on serving up a song that is based on classic song-writing approaches, and by letting Gleicher’s stunning vocals glide effortlessly over hypnotic, undulating electronica.
Londoners Twiceful Mind investigate similar musical territory to acts like Bjork and Imogen Heap, but on Inertia the duo take a more low-key, personal approach to challenging genre boundaries and subverting musical norms. With electronica providing subtle currents of emotion, the brass and strings imbue the track with a sense of grandeur, whilst the vocals provide layers of sublime humanity to the overall lush and sweeping sound. The track is a precursor to their upcoming debut live show in London in a few weeks, which has seen them collaborate with the artist Black Lune.
Settle is the Sophomore single from Brooklynites Haulm, following up the well-received They Came Along. Moving, blue-eyed soul vocals draw the listener in to the emotive lyrics whilst the slowly brooding nature of the arrangement – especially the almost mournful keys means Settle engenders in the listener – deliver a sweet sense of uncertain and almost haunting longing.
Mona Vale is the musical nom de plume of London based songwriter/producer and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Hoddle. His new track Too Late is a guitar-led slice of emotional electronica and is a great showcase for Hoddle’s vocals, which at times function more as another instrument than a means to deliver his insightful and at times stark lyrics. His folk past gives the track an ambience of organic warmth and vigour, balancing perfectly with the softly insistent nature of Too Late.
Another returnee to the Weekly Roundup is Steph Wells’ SUMif project with Drifting. More up-tempo and personal than her previous track IDW, it’s very much focussed on giving the listener a sense of fun and well-being. Drifting is pure feel-good electropop, every note a ray of musical sunshine that’ll shift the darkest cloud.
LA-based singer/songwriter Alexx Mack has teamed up with LA dream-pop duo EXES on Your Car. The track has musical references to 80s style quiet-storm ballads without sounding retro, whilst Mack’s vocals and the lyrics – especially the chorus – bring an almost alt.country edge to a track that is essentially an alternative electro ballad.
These Days, which features the superlative vocal talents of Grace Bugbee, comes out in advance of A Cosmic Gift’s new album A Journey to the Purple Planet. It’s sees Brandon Burger and Richard Houghten weave an intricate tapestry from strands of indie-rock, post-rock, trip and downtempo with Bugbee’s sweet and idiosyncratic vocals embellishing the song with colour and texture. It’s a great advertisement for the LP which drops on 15th November – keep an eye on their Bandcamp page for more details!
Swedish popster Ayelle has teamed up with producer Crayon to carve out delicious slice of political RnB with Silverplates. Blending downtempo rhythms and inflections with jazz piano, trap and RnB cadences flow through the arrangement like a glacier – cold and immense. Lyrically, Ayelle addresses the attitudes the effect male privilege has on women: ‘Silverplates is a metaphor for male privilege and the entitlement felt towards female identifying bodies. Too often in this narrative, women are made to feel as if they’re disposable, and it’s an exhausting landscape to navigate’. It’s an evocative and effective way of using art to show how women can reclaim bodily autonomy, giving the listener a lesson in musical excellence and gender politics.
More returnees to the blog this week are Karoline Elsig and Jakob Franck aka mono mono whose track Rumors we featured back in May. Feel has a similar ambience to that song, again referencing the work of Cocteau Twins whilst incorporating trip-hop sounds and tropes. In contrast, Feel veers away from the warmer, more embracing nature of Rumors, with pitch-shifted vocals, experimental edge and reflective lyrics adding an aura of blissful dissonance to what is in essence a smooth and soothing work.
See you next time!