Review : Cooly G - Playin’ Me
TheskinnyMerrisa 'Cooly G' Campbell's assured, slick productions effortlessly capture the sound of 'funky' – the post-dubstep scene which has embraced elements of vocal house, classic techno, soca and minimal dubstep – and translate it into a satisfying LP. Both producer and vocalist, Campbell's approach for the most part eschews any naff pop pandering in favour of chopped, echoing vocals and smooth, complex electronic arrangements.
There's a healthy dose of darkness in her lyrics and music: Good Times is a brooding, reverb-drenched gloom cookie, while opener He Said I Said is a pitch-dark take on R&B reminiscent of Rodney Jerkins. A more dancefloor-led approach dominates elsewhere: the two-step flavours and luscious bubbling synths of What The World Needs Now recalls first-wave Tempa producer Horsepower Productions, while the soca rhythms of It's Serious could cause some serious outbreaks of shimmying. It's not all perfect – Sunshine's washed-out skank falls flat, and her cover of Coldplay's Trouble, while inventive, is probably worth skirting over. Overall though, Playin' Me is a strong, dynamic listen from a young producer with heaps of artistic courage and ability....full text
Factmag“Welcome to my world…” sings Cooly G, seductively, within the early moments of her debut album Playin’ Me, before murmuring something subtle but inaudible. And, before you’ve probably realised it, you’ve slipped comfortably into her warm embrace.
Cooly’s world is mesmerizing; woozy, fuzzy, hazy, sexual and warm. The lights are low and in the dim hue, edges blur and shadows flicker. It smells feminine and smoky.
The details of how South Londoner Cooly found herself here are, to a certain extent, peripheral to the full Playin’ Me experience. She first came to light as part of the UK funky scene around four years ago, with a MySpace page and Dub Organiser CD-Rs sold through Black Market records in central London. Music soon found itself to Hyperdub’s Kode9 and her dubbed out, percussive style was a perfect fit for the imprint as it, like many labels open to a touch of darkness, reacted to the desecration of dubstep. She released a handful of singles for the stable and began work on her LP.
So far so unremarkable but it’s at this point in many artist’s journeys that it can go all so wrong. You’re invited gently into their dimly lit bedroom, only for bright neon lights to slam on: ‘Spongebob’, Crusty the clown and a half a dozen Juggalo’s have downed all the Skittles and turbocharged WKD and have been waiting for you to begin the vomiting competition. A galling prospect, but one not unfamiliar when underground producers or MCs – who’ve built a loyal fanbase dedicated to a given vibration – decide to “take it to the next level” on their albums, before promptly losing every element you so loved about them. And in this regard Playin’ Me is perfect or thereabouts. Of all the Cooly G albums in multi-dimensional parallel universes, this is the best one, the perfect execution of her sound.
Back when he was first finding his sound, Mala talked about making “broken dub house,” and a decade later this is as good a summary for Cooly’s sound as any, with her delayed percussive touches, subby basslines and wistful Detroit pads. Tracks vary in rhythmic momentum – from driving to scattered and beatless. ‘It’s Serious’ and ‘Is It Gone’ sound like sedated jungle but, like all the album’s editions, always sound part of a greater whole. This sense of unification is what makes Cooly’s album better than good and is in many ways down to the album’s focused set of elements, the most important of which is her voice. When whispers suggested she was taking a more “vocal” route on the album, the spectre of Spongebob, Crusty and friends loomed, such is the potential for calamity when producers become “artists.”...full text
BbcHaving made her mark as part of the late-00s UK funky scene, vocalist and producer Cooly G (Merrisa Campbell) has since proven adept at crossing the pourous borders of modern dance music genres.
As exemplified on debut album Playin’ Me, her work is a sophisticated blend of dubby house, techno and RnB, incorporating grime, drum ’n’ bass and funk. Nowadays there’s nothing radical about such stylistic combinations, but the appeal of Campbell’s work isn’t what she’s mixing, but how she’s mixing it.
At first Playin’ Me appears to be operating on two distinct levels: narrative songs influenced by the romantic content of lover’s rock and RnB, and the plotless dramas of rave. But the dichotomy is a false one: Is It Gone, for example, is a compelling piece of instrumental post-grime techno, evoking the desolate aftermath of the relationship that’s beginning in earlier vocal tracks like Landscapes.
The collapse of a relationship is never explicitly mentioned, but the album’s title – whether accusation or realisation, or both – fills the gaps in Campbell’s impressionistic lyrics. It also explains why a ballad like Good Times, about meeting a boy at a bus stop and wanting his number, arrives loaded with an almost gothic sense of dread.
Two moods preside. First is one of expectation, as on He Said I Said where Campbell’s seductive drawl slides between Atlanta and Brixton; and the tantalising Come Into My Room, a track-long break that never drops. The mood grows uncertain with Trying, ambient bliss destabilised by turbulent pockets of bass, and darkens on the UK funky of the title track, where carnival hedonism is transplanted with a raw anxiety....full text
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