Artwork by Ellis McKenzie.
Originally published for The 405.
I hope you all like electro-R&B because there’s lots of it this month, and the Danes are showing us exactly how it’s done: who knew Denmark had such a flourishing R&B scene? From the new EP from, the only boyband that should be on your radar this year, Liss to a dreamy collab from producer Sekuoia and singer Kill J, the Danes are on fire right now.
Outside of Denmark, we’ve got an array of multi-national new releases from Atlanta’s Awful Records’ Abra, East London’s Azekel, a collab between London pop duo Ekkah and LA hip-hop/funk producer DâM-FunK and the new album from Puerto Rican/Cuban, New York-based singer Xenia Rubinos.
Abra – Crybaby
No it’s not Abra the Pokémon, it’s ATL R&B singer Abra, who has dropped the lead single from her upcoming, and aptly titled, PRINCESS EP, due for release on 15th July, and, expectedly, it’s absolute fire. Putting her humble beginnings behind her, performing acoustic covers of Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame as HurricaneGabrielle on YouTube, Abra joined Awful Records – the so-called outcast hip-hop collective, who have ironically found themselves at the epicenter of Atlanta’s music scene. To say being part of Awful Records seems chaotic is probably a massive understatement, but many of its artists seem to have found solace in being part of the ‘weirdo’ collective and in its unique method of operating, Abra included. Despite seeming to struggle initially with the group’s anarchic work ethic, Abra is now in a more balanced place, personally and professionally, and in a far better position to really take off in the way she deserves to: in other words, let the reign of the ‘Darkwave Duchess’ begin.
Liss – Miles Apart
I would really like to do the whole ‘you’ll never guess what these guys look like’ thing with Liss but since you’ll be watching the video, it’s not really going to work. That said, they’re not exactly the bunch of boys you were expecting to be behind this track are they? But, as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover, and despite looking more like an angst-y Scandinavian punk band, Liss create the most blissful electro-R&B/synth-pop melodies, as displayed wonderfully on their debut EP First, out now via XL Recordings. The Danish four-piece worked with XL’s producer extraordinaire Rodaidh McDonald, who has produced records for the likes of The xx and King Krule, as well as Danish producer and MØ collaborator Vera, on the EP, after writing and self-producing all their demos at a remote house outside of their hometown of Aarhus: a place they call ‘Holiday Cottage’, which has limited internet and limited distractions, where they can focus solely on making music.
Sekuoia feat. Kill J – Lamp in the Dark
Here’s a nice bit of continuity for you, with another track straight outta Denmark, where it all seems to be kicking off right now; well in the niche world of experimental pop/R&B anyway. Copenhagen-based producer Sekuoia has teamed up with fellow Dane Kill J for this seductively dark, minimal track, which sounds exactly what you would imagine from its title. The track is set to appear on Sekuoia’s debut album, flac, due for release in September this year, along with previous release Someone’s Problem. While Sekuoia’s production is usually more aligned in the realm of house music, Kill J’s vocals bring a more R&B vibe to this track, and it works like a charm. It’s safe to say, these two should definitely collaborate more often.
Azekel – Linger
It’s been a while since East London’s Azekel released the lead track, ‘The War Inside’, from his new EP, Raw Vol. 2, due out later this year, but the follow-up track was definitely worth the wait. ‘Linger’ is undeniably sexy, with Azekel stating, “I wanted to express the qualities of a relationship that are often invisible to everyone but the two people involved.” I think we all know what that means *wink emoji*. The forthcoming EP was written, performed and produced by Azekel at Abbey Road Studios and will be the follow-up to last year’s Raw Vol. 1, concluding theRaw EP series. Aside from working on his own music, Azekel recently collaborated with Massive Attack on a track, ‘Ritual Spirit’, taken from their EP of the same name, which also features collaborations with Young Fathers, Roots Manuva, Tricky and 3D, and he is set to perform alongside the group at this year’s British Summer Time festival at Hyde Park.
Ekkah x DâM-FunK – What’s Up
In an unexpected turn of events, London pop duo Ekkah have teamed up with iconic producer DâM-FunK and delivered a sensational double A-side, including two new tracks they wrote and recorded together in LA, ‘What’s Up’ and ‘Space Between Us‘. Ekkah’s pop vocals flow perfectly over DâM-FunK’s funky, disco-influenced production on both tracks but ‘What’s Up’ just edges over ‘Space Between Us’ for me, where the vocals and production are just that little bit more slick. The duo dedicated the second track, ‘Space Between Us’, to David Bowie after writing it upon hearing the news of his death, with the legendary musician’s influence on their music and style being pretty evident. Word on the street is that their debut album is due out early next year on Sony/RCA so it shouldn’t be too long until we hear more from this promising pair of pop princesses.
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat
Steering away from the electro/synth-based sounds for this last one: the new album from the multi-talented, New York-based artist Xenia Rubinos. ‘Black Terry Cat’ is a masterclass in musicianship. From the songwriting to the vocal delivery to the instrumentation, it’s pretty much flawless. Only on her second full-length release, Xenia Rubinos has established herself as one of the most exciting and diverse artists around just now; it’s no surprise she’s drawn comparisons to the likes of Erykah Badu and St. Vincent. The album covers just about every theme you could possibly cover on an album, with references to politics, race, gender, identity and relationships, and spans across several genres, drawing influence from Rubinos’ Puerto Rican and Cuban roots and blending it with her appreciation of funk, hip-hop and R&B, all the while showcasing her stunning vocal abilities.