premiere: yazmin lacey’s soul jazz has attitude
Not sure which part at the top of Yazmin Lacey’s second great single of 2018, “Something My Heart Trusts,” is more appealing. Is it the rhythm section flourish that begins it? At once, forceful and smooth, tight but relaxed, a heavy kind of light-hearted — effortlessly setting up the song’s off-kilter scene, an odd time signature, and a groove. Or is it the lyrical put-down that the East End girl transplanted to Nottingham delivers seconds later, which does pretty much the same job but with words. “You won’t shut the fuck up, so I won’t let you in,” is a line tailored for righteous punk anger, but when delivered with Lacey’s soulful drawl, it’s a declaration of weariness. And in 2018, who of us does not share that mental exhaustion?
Lacey, who first began demanding the spotlight with a wonderful 2017 EP called Black Moon, makes music that takes advantage of the U.K.’s current mass re-connection of soul, jazz and broken beat. Backed by a crack quintet, where the electric keys (Pete Beardsworth) and electric guitar (Charlie Bone) provide a melodic sheen, while the bass (George French), drums (Tom Towle) and percussion (Owen Campbell) set down the rhythm figures. Yazmin’s is a dynamic variation on what was once tagged “neo-soul,” her vocals up-front, on the listener’s plain, not hidden behind a recording studio’s veils, earthy and relatable.
Like most of Lacey’s songs, “Something My Heart Trusts” is too: the end of the affair and a yearning for a truer bond that is easy to recognize. The difference is that as the rhythm section, lyrics and the attitude of the vocal all make clear, the desire that Lacey projects comes from a place of strength not weakness. Which is why, when the group stirs behind her and Yazmin arrives at a chorus that can easily serve as a double entendre for the darker times unfolding all around us, the expressed weariness is couched in a declarative need, a demand:
Something’s got to give
Something’s got to change
Something my heart trusts
afropunk premiere: hypnotic single ‘dues’ marks new focus for electro-soul collective astralblak
Electrosoul collective ZULUZULUU has never pulled punches, and their re-emergence as astralblak finds the band pushing their sonic limits, while holding themselves accountable. The song matches a retro synth beat to one of the band’s tightest hooks. Melting synths fill out open spaces beneath a massive beat. As for the name change, it came as the result of soul searching about cultural appropriation and being true to their message as a band:
The main reason for the name change was a matter of authenticity and accountability. Being that none of us is directly related to the actual Zulu tribe of South Africa, we collectively decided that changing the name would be the most respectful course of action. astralblak is universal as in connecting with the universe, it is all encompassing in its narrative of blackness and highlights the diversity in all of our individual experiences as artists and members of the unified diaspora.- astralblak (formerly ZULUZULUU)
The band plays as part of the Verizon Super Bowl concert series this afternoon in Minneapolis. Check them out at 4pm on the Verizon Up Stage At 8th And Nicollet Avenue.
love songs get an afrofuturist twist in lush new single by byron biroli, ‘kings’
It’s fitting that Byron Biroli would find a game collaborator in Afrofuturist digital collagist Khan Nova. His songs are a meld of electro soul and Baganda traditions with a distinct retro future vibe, all wrapped together in a warm synth glow. A video collaboration from them would be mind bending perfection. Biroli’s latest “Kings” is a love song celebrating that person who inspires you to be the best version of yourself. It’s the kind of song that instantly washes away the cynicism that’s all too easy to fall into these days. More of this please!
Photo: Khan Nova
dive into electro-soul bliss with experimental artist ed balloon’s ‘flourish’
Since dropping his debut EP in 2015, the Boston-based experimental soul artist Ed Balloon has turned heads. Joining forces with Deathbomb Arc (the folks who presented perennial favorites like clipping. and Signor Benedick the Moor) looks good on Mr. Balloon. His mutated electro-soul fits in well with the label’s brand of boundary pushing indie. Flourish is at its best when Ed Balloon digs into his bag of left-field percussion and spacious synths and gives his warm baritone room to breathe. Highlights like opener “Papér Chaser” and “HOODxAIR” hit the sweet spot and demand multiple listens to explore the vast crevices of sound he creates. If Ed Balloon’s not already on your radar, Flourish ought to put him there.
sail away on electro-soul artist alxndr london ethereal ep ‘today’
Kalimbas collide with jazz piano, electric percussion, beneath and ethereal ambiance before Alxndr London’s haunting tenor comes into focus. London’s music takes pieces of sound from across the African Diaspora and melds them into something beautiful, soulful, and deeply original on his latest EP Today. Highlights like “Kraken” and “Circus Of Mermaids” imagine dreams of oceans and mythical beasts. The production is dreamlike and magical; if Mermaids exist, this is probably the music they make while Krakens dance in the distance. “April” keeps the production grounded in the now with glitched out percussion and modern synths bursting out of the mythological seashore. Alxndr London’s latest EP is a dream half-remembered of a place that may never have existed, but somehow you can’t stop thinking about it.
iconic funk producer/songwriter amp fiddler returns with j dilla-produced groove, “return of the ghetto fly”
Amp Fiddler has always been one of those artists other artists listen to and ask: “hold up, how the fuck did he do that?” Though he didn’t drop his first solo record until 2004’s cult classic Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, Fiddler had already changed music history 10 times over. Starting as the keyboardist in P-Funk in 1983, Amp spent a decade exploring the squeals and squiggles synth manufacturers didn’t intend, before he unleashed his prodigy into the world: the late great J Dilla. Amp Fiddler introduced Dilla to the MPC sampler and mentored him in sampling techniques and producing. So it’s fitting that on Amp’s newest album, he’d bring the whole family back together for the first single.
J Dilla reportedly gifted Amp the beat after Amp found a zip disk Dilla lost. Given how thoroughly mined Dilla’s tapes have been over the years in search of any last traces of genius, it’s exhilarating to hear something new. Especially in this match-up between mentor and protegee. The song announces Amp Fiddler’s return to form, calling back to Waltz, but brings in new collaborators and new sounds. It’s the best mix of old and new. Dilla would be proud.
electro-soul artist abslm vltn reassures the heartbroken with soul-warming slow jam “love”
Guitars blurring the lines with synths and a classic retro-inspired beat give the debut single from ABSLM VLTN a haunting melancholy. His baritone voice is shrouded in reverb, while the production nods towards Purple Rain-era Prince. ABSLM VLTN’s production gives the song a sense of vintage timelessness, while the songwriting keeps it rooted firmly in the now. It’s a song that belongs equally on a handmade cassette mixtape or Spotify playlist.
london soul artist byron fuses baganda music with modern production on captivating track, “so naive”
On his debut single, the lush “So Naive,” London artist Byron digs into his Ugandan roots for a song that mixes electronic soul with Baganda music. Vintage synths collide with East African guitar, all beneath his effortless voice. Reportedly, Byron returned to Uganda to study with Albert Ssempeke, one of the last royal Ugandan musicians to survive Idi Amin. There’s a mix of retro cool, future production and timeless guitar work that make the song something unique. A full album can’t come soon enough!
future-soul singer quiñ teams up with syd tha kyd for a “sticky situation”
Solo Syd Tha Kyd means an endless stream of dope collaborations between The Internet singer and some of our other favorite R&B/Soul artists. The newest collabo is for future-soul singer QUIÑ’s track “Sticky Situation”. A warm, dreamy fusion of R&B and experimental soul, “Sticky Situation” is a sexy, futuristic banger that acts as the perfect end-of-summer soundtrack to QUIÑ’s desert romance.
See QUIÑ perform live at AFROPUNK Brooklyn, Aug. 26-27.
new music: electro-soul artist nombe releases exciting pharrell-approved single “can’t catch me”
Having already impressed so far this year with the release of the infectious singles “Wait”, “Young Hearts” and “Freak Like Me” LA-based singer NoMBe releases yet another hit from his debut album, They Might’ve Even Loved Me–which he is releasing single by single–in the new song “Can’t Catch Me.” The track was personally chosen by Pharrell as the official theme song to his HBO documentary series OUTPOST, with the legend stating, “NoMBe makes music for the sub-conscious with colorful layers and unexpected water slides. He writes and produces dream sequences.”
“A while ago, I was presented with the opportunity to score a commercial in the style of famed punk band the Vandals,” the rising star explained in a newsletter. “I was new to the commercial world, where extremely tight deadlines and rejection were the norm, and was therefore pretty bummed to hear they were going with someone else… I discarded the track as a lost cause. Now, who would’ve thought that 2 years later Mr. Williams himself would end up saving this song from oblivion by making it the opening title to his HBO show ‘Outpost’??”
NoMBe’s teams up with fellow LA singer and TH3RD BRAIN label mate New Mystics for the energetic indie pop track. Check it out below!: