serpentwithfeet
soil


4.0
excellent


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “ Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

I attribute my general lack of knowledge about soul and r&b to this assumption: These two genres nowadays have transformed into some sort of ground of experimentation, freedom of expression and safe haven for avant-garde unconventional thinking. I believe that, because over several years now, most of albums and artists with such genre classifications have struck me as, if not boundary pushers, impressionably unique artistes at least. Be it the most banal, obvious cases of Childish Gambino, D’Angelo, Kelela or FKA Twigs, to someone rather overlooked like Benjamin Clementine. They all seemed to have separated themselves from the generally understood characteristics of either soul or r&b in song-writing, production or instrumental execution, mostly by adding just a little more orchestral work or a little more vocal effects or a little more influences. Bottom line, it seemed as though the genres are pushing into new directions with each release, and with each release they become more and more inseparable.

So what am I ramping up to?Well, to the fact that the odd became ordinary and I now find myself getting used to the genres (or their combination) being off-the-grid and mind-bending. So much so that I probably could not point out something I’d previously call “normal” or “typical” for the genre, as well as that I am getting more and more difficult to surprise. And such unfortunate case we have here, for soil, while undeniably magnetic and beautiful, did not surprise me.

One defining trait of this album and Josiah Wise’s entire work in general is that he can build around his arguably not exactly singing voice. He cannot pull off grandiose ranges, nor can he burn a hole in your heart with fiery vocal performance. He is acceptable, but he understands that perfectly and writes music in such a brilliantly fitting way that only his vocal highs and lows do it justice. Furthermore, Josiah’s song-writing seems shapeless at first. It appears to rely purely on his vocal effects and the atmosphere of obscurity. Any melodic components then feel more or less as a formality to keep the songs afloat. But it all makes sense.

Everything strikes with relaxed, sophisticated and self-aware calm and subtlety. Songs like “messy”, “mourning song” or “bless ur heart” all work at the most subdued, unprovocative and chilled-out tone; cuts like “whisper”, “waft” or “slow syrup” each progress and build up to something seemingly larger than life; and then tracks like “cherubim” or “seedless” are each one beat drop away from being straight up bangers.

But as stated at the beginning, the problem here is that the album is just kind of unsurprising. It isn’t off-kilter enough to be considered experimental, while simultaneously being a little too artsy and conceptually extravagant to be straightforward. Perhaps it actually is either of those things, perhaps it is neither. I couldn’t tell, even if I tried.

The album is fantastic. It’s me that is the problem.



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Chart.
3.6
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related reviews

blisters

Comments:Add a Comment 
Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

please don't be mad at me if some of the references there are incorrect, as I've stated in my review, I am no scholar of the genre

Digging: N'Zwaa - Maha Kali

luci
June 10th 2018


11181 Comments


"He cannot pull off grandiose ranges, nor can he burn a hole in your heart with fiery vocal performance. He is acceptable"
NO. He's one of the best modern vocalists, listen to the blisters title track to see what he can pull off. Even Bjork says he's one of her favorite singers today. I don't know what "his arguably not exactly singing voice" is supposed to mean.
I think the central thesis is fine here (the conclusion para gets it across better than the intro para). Sloppy writing overall that betrays a lack of understanding of the artist, but you're not pretending to be familiar so I guess it's honest?
I'm quite deflated on the album. blisters is one of my favorites of the decade; this might not make my top 20. more thoughts on that later


Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

huh, didn't listen to blisters. perhaps he just comes off a little underwhelming on this album.

Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

which, in turn, kind of undermines what I was trying to say...

bgillesp
June 10th 2018


6993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmmm

bgillesp
June 10th 2018


6993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Jamming this now. Yeah he can def sing

Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I mean, yes he can sing, but it's always kind of breathy and never particularly remarkable. At least to me...

Gyromania
June 10th 2018


27561 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed with lucid. He's one of the best voices in music right now. This is a damn fine album, but not the masterpiece I was hoping for after being so enamoured of blisters. Ridiculous expectation tho.



Good review btw, despite some disagreements

Digging: black midi - Schlagenheim

Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, I am listening to blisters now and I have to admit that that EP is a different league.

luci
June 10th 2018


11181 Comments


he had such a unique sound on blisters. the arca-like bass pop aesthetic has become played out, he blends in with the crowd now.
he seems conflicted between experimentation and pop leanings. no song is as wonderful as "bless ur heart" ("cherubim" is 2nd best... the two singles). wish he stuck to the avant stream-of-consciousness of blisters, the choruses here aren't that compelling. he should have gone down a hval route instead of aiming for success with a 'poppy' sound.
is it a great album? maybe. i'm dispirited because I know he can do better

Papa Universe
June 10th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haxan Cloak production probably helped blisters a lot

TwigTW
June 12th 2018


3772 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Interesting review Uni, R&B was the last genre I expected to break out in experimentation. Alternative R&B took me completely by surprise . . . I wish serpentwithfeet stuck with Haxan Cloak for this album. It is a bit of a step down from what they did on Blisters.

Digging: Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari

DaveTesseract
August 17th 2018


91 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

uuuh i really like that one. sometimes a lil overproduced imo. vocal performance is on top.

fragrant is one of the best songs of the year.

Papa Universe
August 17th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How is it that everybody thinks his vocals are great?



Could I be wrong?

No, the world is crazy.

danielito19
August 20th 2018


12075 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

his vibrato sounds really forced and painful in a few places. wayyy too fast for natural vibrato, and i would know, i spent the first year of my voice degree doing the same thing. dude's going to hurt himself

Papa Universe
August 20th 2018


21699 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, thank you.

brandontaylor
September 15th 2018


820 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i enjoyed the somewhat experimental structures and melodies, but the vocals can veer towards annoying for me, and i think this would've been more successful if it balanced its sound with a slightly more pop-leaning approach. i think moses sumney did this sound better last year.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 27th 2019


43287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

that ep was not good, this is a substantial improvement.



a great voice is never gonna compensate for how much help this dude needs production-wise.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 27th 2019


43287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

And Haxan cloak wasnt helping.. what a bore



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