One of the advantages of this day and age we live in is that we have all the music we want at our immediate grasp, which is a wonderful thing for those who can’t live without music. But it can also be problematic – too many options can equal paralysis. Where to start? Some people like stuff that falls into their lap, makes them dance, and gives them a good time to remember, while others like digging deep and finding new sounds to tide themselves over.
These camps hardly overlap nowadays, yet we have seen recently that they can agree on a handful of artists who make R&B-based music with elements of instrumental experimentation. It usually involves music that dares to look away from the familiar, while at the same time employing vocals that sound warm and smooth to the ear. And thanks to artists like Disclosure, Blood Orange, and FKA twigs, more people are getting used to a little digital noise with their slow jams.
This hybrid music is on the rise, ready to take over the world, and some of the most forward-thinking exponents of neo-soul are Latinos; so we decided to talk a little about those bringing in the new school.
This young singer has been gathering a ton of attention. First, Lenny Kravitz catches one of his sets and invites him to tour with him, and now he’s bound for a great 2015. Gabriel is no overnight sensation, though; his album Bishouné: Alma Del Huila was released a year ago almost to the day, allowing Garzón-Montano to slowly build a crowd with his charisma and sound, the later which nods to the Nineties and TV On The Radio in a very appealing package.
Remezcla’s sweetheart is fast becoming the world’s sweetheart. We have been following her since almost day one and we can’t get enough of her, and now she’s getting compared to many a legend compared in tons of different magazines and blogs. Blending rap with Sixties sensibilities, classic hooks and personality for days, nothing is stopping Kali from becoming the worldwide megastar we already know she can be. Her latest song, “Lottery” is a hit record that could top the charts right now, 20 or even 50 years ago. Talk about timelessness.
The union of Fermín Sánchez, Ferdinand González, and Franco Genel is something quite difficult to pin down musically, and that may be the reason they seem so forward-thinking. Granted, not all of their songs would fall squarely into the soul genre, but when they do, like on “Neolsticio,” “Bella Tarde,” or “Ven,” they marry some of the most interesting beats with odd noises, surreal rhymes, and massive hooks. In short, they can be emotional, romantic, and menacing, in the same song without breaking the mood of the track.
Technology plays a big part on this combo, as analog synths figure prominently in their sound. What makes Ratbot special is that they have the talent to make those synths emote along with their melodies, which evoke the Nineties new jack swing movement with an added depth. They dabble a bit in nostalgia but usually look for something new in their music, and are also a highly visual act, adding up to a whole package for music lovers. Ratbot are one of the Mexican underground’s best kept secrets that deserve to get the word out.
Nick Hakim does plenty of electronic noise, but his mellowness is almost always anchored by guitar playing that connects the listener to something real and warm. Nick is an ambitious artist, having released two volumes of Where Will We Go so far, touring Europe with critics’ darling How To Dress Well, and getting props from Billboard, NPR, and Stereogum among many more fans. His voice and songs can propel him to mainstream audiences, but if his social media is any indication (filled with videos by avant weirdos like Sun Ra and Silver Apples), we know he’ll remain one step ahead of the game, paving the way for others to follow his lead.
Granted, Alejandro Ghersi is not a neo soul artist per se. He made his name producing key tracks on Kanye West’s massive Yeezus, and his skills have also graced the recently released Vulnicura by Björk. A bigger departure is his own brilliant Xen record, an album more concerned with granular textures than hooks or beats; but Gheersi knows a hook when he pens it, as demonstrated on some of the choice cuts on Yeezus and last year’s LP1 by forerunner in the future R&B category FKA twigs. Arca is sure to be an in-demand producer for anyone looking for cutting edge beats and instantly familiar-sounding choruses, while the impact of his records so far are sure to inspire many others exploring similar territory or trying to hit the goldmine Alejandro calls home.