Review: Bailey Wiley – Bailey Wiley EP

Bailey Wiley

First appeared: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/bailey-wiley-bailey-wiley-ep/?fbclid=IwAR1EuYdYaR41rodCAu65HpZToA9-G5CrrUg1JzZVPY8YZmjHv4wkMqttJHg

Ambient Light

If the name is slightly familiar then it’s possible you’ve been to a Fly My Pretties show recently. That’s when this young, vibrant soul singer’s talent bubbled up towards the mainstream. But she’s been around for a while. A ‘Naki’ girl, originally, Wiley grew up with the vintage sounds of 60s/70s soul and the syncopated grooves of late 90s/early 2000s RnB. With stints in Dunedin, Christchurch and Berlin, she’s picked up some street smarts and blended it into her own template of sweet neo-soul. You get huge dollops of golden syrup, mixed with a little raspy fibre for body. She’s released three projects in the last five years, Inevitable, IXL, and S.O.M.M, and performed around the globe alongside Charlotte Day Wilson, SZA, Ladi6, Jess B, Tokimonsta, Rubi Du, Eno x Dirty, and Melodownz, and headlining her own shows. Then, of course there’s Fly My Pretties.

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately, and I can’t help drawing parallels with the personalities and styles of the contestants and their individual cuisine interpretations. Wiley, it seems to me, is well on the way to becoming a master chef herself when it comes to mixing it up. Collaboration is the key to a good recipe. This e.p. is a collection of material that’s been brewing for a while now. Cooked to perfection at Auckland’s Red Bull Music Studios with producers and engineers such as Josh Fountain, 2019 Taite prize winner Tom Scott (Avantdale Bowling Club), High Hoops, Smokey and Eno she’s boxed up some delicious treats to brighten up your autumn evenings.

Her entrée, DWN4U, sets the table. Her sound immediately reminded of early Erykah Badu and made me sit up accordingly. Familiar and comforting, with a just a hint of challenge on the tongue. It’s a mid-tempo, rich, sexy beat set of love and valour, boosted with extra elements like Noah Slee’s cool-as-cucumber vocal turns. A tasty starter. I was well happy.

Last year, Wiley whetted our appetite with the syrup-sweet R’n’B tune Sugar, which featured extra flavour enhancement from the slick raps of Melodownz. This one features mid-point on the menu, as a palate cleanser after the weightier servings like Between The Lines and the bass heavy main liner Zaddy (her second single). The retro keys and flutes in the intro to this are pure gold and what a video! A stylish, very slick animation.

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According to the liner notes Zaddy is meant to ‘detail the battle of the sexes at the start of a relationship…a tug of war, a power struggle”. I was expecting salty, sweet, spicy, zingy and maybe some confrontation or irony. But instead, I got a more mellow, nourishing listen, with observations that paid respect to the hero, optimism for a coming relationship. Not quite the punch I was promised.

But don’t think Wiley isn’t capable of wagging her head and finger when she needs to. In the hot and fiery mole sauce of Afford This Love she finds her inner Ramsay and lets fly. “All you do is bore me, Love, You know talk is cheap, You can’t afford this stuff! Fuck your deposit slip…you wanna buy my company…you talk too much but you never talk to me…talk is cheap!” It’s a clever, caustic delivery. Yet it remains subtle. The vibe never gets wild, remaining slow and funky with lyrics that are pure scorn. She’s annoyed and not afraid to let us know. I don’t know who this player is but he certainly better stay out of the kitchen!

For all of the above, the best comes last. With hints of Randy Newman’s Broadway piano glamour through the intro, Yours Truly is the perfect way to sign out. Literally: “I love you but I’m signing off…” It’s a bitter sweet break up song dripping in seductive, velvet chocolate thick harmonies. “It’s like saying goodbye, here’s what you are missing.” Damn!

There are no outright fancy tricks or hooks. Still nothing’s undercooked or burnt either (unless you mean the partners that inspired the backstories to these songs). This is honest and satisfying. Wiley’s fare is pure soul food – delicious, flavoured and good to the last. As she sings in Zaddy, “My plate is full but I could make some room for you”.

Bailey Wiley you served up your self-titled ep, a gorgeous, rich take on neu-soul, and that’s why I give you…an 8!


NZ Music Month 2019


 

Plum Green – Sound Recordings

Sound Recordings

First published: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/plum-green-sound-recordings/

When I first reviewed folk-goth siren Plum Green back in 2012 I may have been a bit harsh. I compared her performance on her debut to Rushes to Evanescence’s Amy Lee, noting that this was a singer in search of her voice. With this new collection, I can safely say she’s found it.

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J Mascis – Elastic Days

Elastic Days

Originally published: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/j-mascis-elastic-days/

Swapping power chords for fingerpicking and acoustic guitars, Dinosaur Jnr’s frontman J Mascis showcases a very different musical side, with a more gentle contemplative approach that’s streets away from the brash indie rock we’re used to from him. On his third solo album,  the alt-pop slacker specialist seeks to combine his trademark firestorm solos with the articulate and delicate acoustics crafted in his first two releases. Despite leaving the safety of his main gig, his sound is much more confident than he’s ever been. Stripped back, these songs hold together without the need for the usual elaborate distortions and shift the focus back to the infamous drawl and psychedelic abstract lyricism.

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Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage (Fat Possum)

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What do you get if you mix the sound of downbeat producers Air with the creepy vibes of David Lynch, the sultry vocals of Melanie Pain and then force it all through a psychedelic lemon squeezer?  Well, this, I imagine.
Actually, French musician Melody Prochet is none of the above – and a little bit of it all. Her 2012 debut, under the label ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’, was a collaboration with Aussie producer/songwriter Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) – a crazy mix of eclectic, melodic vocals and trippy production. On her new release, Melody Prochet has doubled down on the psycho-pop glory of her self-titled debut, while retaining just enough grunge in the final production to subtly smudge up her sexy Franco-pop breathlessness. This is all courtesy of her new Swedish collaborators Fredrik Swahn (The Amazing) and Reine Fiske (Dungen).
Her fearless attitude to music may also be a result of her recent recovery from last year’s car crash which left her with a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae. This comes to mind instantly in the opening song, Cross My Heart: “I can’t keep falling from so high.” The arrangement reminds me of early Cocteau Twins, especially it’s a dreamy mashup of acoustic guitars, hip-hop beats in the bridge and, inexplicably a mediaeval flute.
There’s a spot of self-improvement behind Breathe In, Breathe Out, which swings wildly between moods and tempos, even though the oddly placed whistling segments.
However, I was a bit perplexed by Desert Horse, with its bizarre Arabic flourishes, Latin percussive beats, and scrambled voice samples.  “So much blood on my hands, and there’s not much left to destroy.” This is like Bjork fronting a new iteration of Belle and Sebastian.
Most of the songs on this disc are in French (the above quotes are translated), However, there are interludes and of English and Swedish such as on Var Har Du Vat, a short and sweet traditional Swedish folk song.  That one came as a bit of a surprise.  A nod to her producers, I guess.
In some ways, those songs were a sort of calming influence before the mind-blowing onslaught that comes on the second half of the album.  Tracks like Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige (When Tears of An Angel Make Dancing Snow) have this crazy, unhinged poetic aesthetic to them.  Yet Prochet sings in a playful, coquettish whisper. If you’re not ready it can almost be off-putting.
On the other hand, Her music has a slightly spiritual atmosphere, with chiming bells and other zen come-downs on the fading strains of the mirror-ball disco of Visions of Someone Special.
The theme continues on Shirim, which might well have nicked one or two funky riffs from Nile Rogers during his time working with Daft Punk.  Given all the shit she’s been through who can blame Prochet for wanting to cut loose here and there.
Overall, this is a challenging listen but if you hang in there it’ll be well worth the wild disorientating ride.  If you like your pop music mashed, strained and grained with plenty of sexy, breathless vocals then this one is for you.

Katchafire – Legacy (Zojak Worldwide)

Katchafire_legacy

Originally published at: https://www.13thfloor.co.nz/katchafire-legacy-zojak-worldwide/

As I fight the freezing winter rain, there’s a summer party raging inside my headphones. That’s because Katchafire, Aotearoa’s favourite reggae act, is back with what I believe is their best album yet.

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Belly – Dove (Belly Touring LLC)

First featured at www.13thfloor.co.nz

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Belly – Dove 2018

It’s been 23 years since Tanya Donelly and crew walked away from their highly successful indie pop venture, Belly. Finally, they’ve found the guts to return, bringing with them a sweet but mature version of their younger selves that’s way more than just simply palatable. It’s like they never left.

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