25.05.2016 | Words by: Mathys Rennela.
During a recent trip to my hometown, I ended up digging through some old tapes and cds stacked up in old boxes in my bedroom, only to find a dusty copy of Aaliyah’s Try Again. The death of the internationally acclaimed princess of RnB put an end to my keen interest for Timbaland’s music and to some extent with RnB but lately a few artists like Kelela, FKA Twigs and Jessy Lanza have given to the electronic music scene a new take on RnB.
Self-described anxious producer, Jessy Lanza’s first album "Pull My Hair Back’’ (2013), released on the London-based label Hyperdub, was packed with mellow and dark love songs which offered the perfect soundtrack for late night encounters and tons of excuses to make the first move or the necessary break on your bike ride home after a club night (and sometimes all of that at once). Classically trained jazz musician, the Canadian artist has made a point of showcasing her abilities as a producer since the beginning of her career, with a minimalistic live setup which puts the emphasis on her gears.
She offered a taste of her new live performance to Amsterdam in March, when she opened for Junior Boys in a packed venue, with a stunning show parsimoniously interrupted with humble statements and thanks to the crowd. Her peculiar and enticing voice offered a perfect fit for the catchy beats of her drummer, giving the crowd a perfectly reasonable pretext to dance frenetically.
The Hamilton native impress by the humbleness of the musical and visual content she produces. After a first album which cleverly showcased her abilities as a producer, Jessy Lanza offers us a diverse and eclectic second album in which her high-pitch voice is now stronger and more versatile but still eerie. Inbetween the two records, she has been teasing the transformation of her voice through the mesmerizing song "You never show me love
", on which she enlisted Teklife’s DJ Spinn and Taso footwork producers. She also offered a memorable vocal performance on Morgan Geist’s house record "Calling Card/Mezzanine" and on Caribou’s last album.
The darkness of her first record is now replaced by a certain degree of confidence while keeping this charm which is arguably responsible for putting the Canadian producer in the spotlight. This new found confidence strikingly appear on the track "VV Violence
" of her new album, where she embraces and plays with her rather unique voice. Her first single, "It means I love you
" features a subtle mix between upbeat drum kits and strategically placed acapellas, which constitute one of the trademarks of this second album.
Every song is the quintessence of the timeless catchiness of drum machines combined with an ethereal voice which blends the glory of the 80s disco-ish synth pop era with the sensuality of 90s RnB, transporting us in an alternate world where Giorgio Moroder’s style and Aaliyah’s vocal imprint coexist in perfect harmony (especially on the songs "Going Somewhere", "I Talk BB" and "Vivica"). "New Ogi"
seems to take its influence in scandinavian nu-disco, while the pop-house "VV Violence" features a skillful interplay between her vocals and the drums and "Oh No’’ catches the attention with its intense hook which seems to draw from a musical register shared with Junior Boys’ new album "Big Black Coat".
Faithful to her fan base, Jessy Lanza delivers an album which, like "Pull my hair back
", is rooted in a reflexion about love relationships and their complications, but this time with a more positive tone. This new attitude influences as much the lyrics as it affects her musical productions which are now more joyful. More minimalistic than her first album, her new songs leave more room to appreciate her vocals while confirming her status as a solid electronic music producer, putting to an end the recurrent and unfair dismissal of her abilities, often wrongly justified by her partnership with Jeremy Greenspan’s Junior Boys.
Her jazzy influences melt with old school RnB harmonies where African drums meet 80s pop-disco synth patterns or where Timbaland takes a trip to Japan. The line between her personal influences and her public’s perception of her references, drawn upon their own musical experiences, is definitely blurred and it is hard to tell when she intend to make an hommage or whether what we perceive is a pure product of our imagination, extrapolating on our (childhood) memory. We’re lost in time to the point where references are hard to find.