FROM EMOTIVE SOUL TO KALEIDOSCOPIC ELECTRONIC POP, GET ACQUAINTED WITH THESE DEBUT ARTISTS BY MUSIC’S HOTTEST EMERGING MALE ARTISTS
Words Oisin Lunny
According to that much-plundered source of potentially erroneous information Wikipedia, a debutante or deb (from the French débutante, “female beginner”) is a girl or young woman of an aristocratic or upper-class family who has reached maturity and, as a young adult, comes out into society at a formal ‘debut’. But with this month’s PHOENIX playlist fronted entirely by women to celebrate International Women’s Day, we decided to level the sonic playing field with a trio of sparkling debut albums by the male artists currently emerging into our collective consciousness – and Spotify playlists.
So please be upstanding for our male ‘debs’: psychedelic soul artist Nick Hakim, hailing from Northwest D.C; record producer and XL Recordings head Richard Russell, the man behind the mind-expanding collaborative artist project Everything Is Recorded; and widescreen soundscape creators The Beat Escape, comprised of Addy Weitzman and Patrick A Boivin. Whether they’re interested in attending our metaphorical ball is debatable, but they’ll certainly provide one hell of a soundtrack.
NICK HAKIM – GREEN TWINS
I’m heavily biased, but my daughters have incredible taste in music. My youngest daughter, Eva, introduced me to the music of Nick Hakim after catching him live last year, and his debut album “Green Twins” is very special. Nick makes achingly beautiful soul music, drawing from greats such as Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Timmy Thomas, Prince and Al Green to craft a distinctive sound which comes from a timeless place.
Nick grew up in Northwest D.C. with his Chilean mother, Peruvian father, and two brothers, who introduced Nick to many sonic adventures, as brothers do. He attended the Berklee College of Music where he began working on what would evolve into his debut EP “Where Will We Go”. Hakim want off the rails for a while, as he explained to Fader: “I wasn’t treating my body right; I was depressed. I didn’t feel good, you know?” The music, he says, offered its own form of salvation, mentoring children at the Boys & Girls Club in Roxbury. During this time Nick learned about the importance of creative autonomy, and took his new-found insights to New York City, where he relocated in 2013, eventually moving in with his girlfriend, and starting work on “Green Twins”.
The album echoes Marvin Gaye’s later explorations of love as salvation, as redemption, as a brief glimpse of heaven, and his ambitious arrangements are suitably baroque. In “The Want”, for example, his crescendos of rising harmonies capture the fragile, temporal beauty of love, while in the grooving “Cuffed” Nick poetically recalls some adventures involving an ex-lover and a pair of handcuffs. The video is inspired by photographer Cristina Garcia Rodero’s photos of followers of Venezuela’s María Lionza religion. Nick is a tremendous new talent of profound depth, catch him live in the US through May, then in June at Primavera Sound in Barcelona and for three nights in Nimes, France.
EVERYTHING IS RECORDED – EVERYTHING IS RECORDED
I’ve been enjoying the astonishing creative output of Everything Is Recorded since their “Close But Not Quite” EP last May, which was featured in the PHOENIX playlist around the time. Everything Is Recorded is the collaborative artist project from record producer and XL Recordings head Richard Russell. With Russell at the helm, his west London studio The Copper House became a creative second home for a revolving cast of vocalists and musicians who pass through to write, record and share ideas, mixing traditional recording sessions with extended, uninhibited live jams.
The self-titled album, released just after Valentine’s Day, features an eclectic international and inter-generational cast of collaborators and musicians who include (in order of appearance on the album) Sampha, Obongjayar, Kamasi Washington, Damon Albarn, Giggs, Ibeyi, Wiki, Syd, Rachel Zeffira, Infinite, Green Gartside, Peter Gabriel and Owen Pallett. With Russell at the production helm, a spirit of soundsystem-inspired collaboration and experimentation runs through the heart of an album that is born out of some spontaneous moments of togetherness and periods of intense personal reflection for its creator, and is at once soulful, timeless and modern.
Richard and friends launched the album with their Everything Is Recorded In Residence event at the abandoned Savoy cinema in Stoke Newington, where the artists held rehearsals in a space open to the public, cost free, alongside two sold-out live dates. The stellar guestlist included Sampha, Ibeyi, Infinite, Obongjayar, Mela Murder, Green Gartside, Rachel Zeffira, Infinite and many more. A modern masterclass in musical collaboration.
THE BEAT ESCAPE – LIFE IS SHORT THE ANSWER’S LONG
When I was a kid, visions of the future (which were invariably dystopian) were always soundtracked with mountains of synthesizers and oceans of reverb. I’m reminded of this retro-future when listening to the immersive widescreen soundscapes of Montreal duo The Beat Escape, but the vibe is more dreamy than dystopian.
Long before they were a band, beat escapists Addy Weitzman and Patrick A Boivin made “a short oddball work” at a university video class – “a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream”, they explain. It was the first step on a long journey, and many projects and collaborations later the duo has crafted a debut album that their younger selves would be proud of. “Life Is Short the Answer’s Long” plays like a waking dream of near-psychedelic electronic pop, moving to its own beat in a push-pull of reflection and forward motion.
Building on their experience DJing together in a Montreal bar, the duo gained momentum when Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde heard “Seeing Is Forgetting” and snapped them up. They completed the album in the studio above said bar, and it was mixed by Finland house DJ/producer Jori Hulkkonen, who the duo credit with fully realising its “driving, expansive and painterly sound”.
If this is pop music, it’s pop that maps a singular route through electronic territory. “We’re drawn to the type of songs that were almost hits but there’s something slightly off about them, so they were never discovered,” explain the duo. “Then I Drift Away” fulfils that intent, evoking a kind of dislocated psychedelia via Screamedelica; ditto “Seeing Is Forgetting”, where warm synth chords, a buoyant bass melody and deep vocal chorales merge hypnotically.
Originally published in PHOENIX Magazine.
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