Review : Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting
PitchforkIs 2011 turning out to be the year UK bass music goes semi-mainstream? Well, kinda. Sorta. Not exactly. For one thing, genres like dubstep and funky have been moving away from the club fringe and toward the center of the pop conversation for a while now. (In the UK itself, they've been at the center for some time already.) Dubstep sonics, however toned-down or disguised, can be heard in all sorts of chart music these days. And now we have a full slate singers with (sometimes very loose) connections to bass culture, several of whom have released albums in 2011 aimed as much as folks who need songs as folks who obsessively collect dubplates.
Thing is, and not a little ironically, the singer whose songs have the strongest sonic connection to UK bass is also the most pop, Katy B, where the hard-hitting drums and wobbler bass effects are sweetened by her I-wanna-be-a-star delivery. Meanwhile, dubstep fans, juiced on the weird rhythmic experiments of his early singles, have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why James Blake's album so firmly lashed itself to the mast of indie-crooner culture. And in the middle, we have Jamie Woon.
Almost the exact middle, actually. Young and school-trained London singer Woon's debut album, Mirrorwriting, sits between Katy B and James B, pop theatricality and singer-songwriter calm, club culture and bedroom indie, old-school soul and modern electronic R&B, extroverted and introverted. And tying it all together is the language of UK bass. His first major single, 2010's justly lauded "Night Air", announced him as one of a number of young English artists for whom garage, and everything that came after, was just another bit of pop language to use. And from the slow-motion jungle syncopations and muted bass blare of "Street" to the stuttering retro-rave breakbeats that drive "Spirits", the computer-assisted Woon makes sorta-pop from the last 20 years of UK dance the way current U.S. guitar kids draw from surf-rock and girl-groups....full text
ContactmusicJamie Woon's debut album 'mirrorwriting' has been three years in the making. and a lifetime in the writing. These are twelve pitch-perfect gems that combine forward-thinking production with beautifully crafted songs; a sonic support-system that frames and holds Woon's luminous voice in all the right places. It's intimate without being obvious, emotional without being syrupy and honest without being confessional, where the basic touchstones of human emotion get a fresh and soulful airing.
This, he says, is a calming record, made for himself and for other people. He's crafted a raft of dreamy, unsettled melancholy, pieces of music which try to shake off anxiety by finding a groove and songs that aim to evoke inscrutable things. Oh, and Woon claims there are at least four songs about going for a walk.
Jamie Woon has had a remarkable few months. Back in October he released Night Air, as dark, sweet and seductive as molasses, an irresistibly understated combination of Jamie's uniquely supple voice, his subtly compulsive beats and a sky full of atmosphere. It was written with some additional production from Burial, and came with a remix from superlatively-talented producer Ramadanman (who sealed their friendship by naming one of his 2007 releases 'The Woon'). The next month he was featured in The Guardian's New Band Of The Day, and four weeks later found himself playlisted at Radio 1 and hovering at the top end of the BBC's Sounds of 2011 poll come the start of the year. He's since enjoyed a sell-out tour and announced a second for early summer including a date at London's Shepherds Bush Empire. Things are changing rapidly for the 28 year old Londoner.
It's been a long journey to get to this point since his first 12" Wayfaring Stranger came out in 2007. That record, now rated of one of the best 12"s of the last decade thanks to the Burial mix, came out on Live Recordings, an innovative project in Lewisham run by social enterprise Livity, where a group of young men from local estates ran their own label for a year. Woon was heavily into Burial's first album and acting on a passing comment from a mutual friend that the anonymous producer liked male vocals, contacted his record label....full text
PinboardblogDark and obscure, ‘Night Air’ serves as a brilliant encapsulation of the type of artist Jamie Woon is. That somber post meridiem ode is systematic of what can be found on mirrorwriting, Woon’s debut set. Painted over the course of three years mirrorwriting is stocked with enigmatic lyrics, reverberating vocals and exceptional productions.
Crafting what can only be described as futurist Rhythm & Blues, Woon delves deep into his influences spanning Folk, Gospel, Prog and 2-step. These sophisticated compositions are bound together by mournfully beautiful lyricism carried by a quivering, introverted voice that steers clear of ad-lib excess. Woon’s ability to write poetics – often drawing on symbolic, nocturnal imagery and the elements – enable him to create emotive worlds of fear, anxiety and longing that can be as consuming on the listener, as they evidently are on the singing sufferer.
Darkened 808′s, off-beat kicks, ghostly percussives/handclaps, heartbreaking guitars, soul stirring synth chords and vintage bass riptides create the unique atmosphere that Woon has delicately carved around himself. Yet unlike his contemporaries (and/or any trendy journo perpetuated contingents), Woon is proud to inject the one thing that will set him apart from the other 3am inspired poe-faced breed: his channelling the power of Funk. Yet clearly inspired by ‘Night Air’ co-producer Burial, he has somehow merged Funk with the gothicism of Untrue-era 2-step and developed a new breed of R&B. So, all low frequency oscillation aside guys, real basslines are back. And even then, if William Bevan was a singer, this is probably the album he could have produced. But that’s not to insinuate Woon has carbon copied, far from it – in fact, he has (maybe inadvertently) created something distinctly original, something that couldn’t have existed without that which had come before it – but something that until now, hadn’t been propagated....full text
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