Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Expat singer/producer and multi-instrumentalist Jason Rakei has certainly fallen on his feet in London these past six years: signed to Ninja Tune; collaborating with Common and Nile Rodgers; appearances at various festivals and live radio sessions; coverage in Pitchfork, The Guardian, Observer, Pop Matters! Etc; covering a Donald Byrd track for the Blue Note: Re:Imagined compilation; a Late Night Tales compilation . . . .
With his high, soulful voice, Rakei on this new album continues a journey of personal thoughts and self-discovery (family, love, letting go of the emotional guardrail) and musically arrives at a place somewhere along the axis between Anohni and Teeks, Moses Sumney and Marvin Gaye (in a 21stcentury studio of rhythm toys and available sonic possibilities).
What stands out however is the naked emotion on display – the result of therapy apparently – and his willingness to lay his heart on the record: the opener Family aches with loss (“did you have to disappear but not yet truly go?”) however insists “family, you stuck by me”; the contained drama of the “orchestrated” Unguarded with “I let myself imagine that fear of love had me”; “I'm holding on for dear life” on the elegantly simple Clouds which looks the damaged world in the eye; the almost religious tone of the title track . . .
The final piece, the seven minute-plus The Flood, is the dramatic sonic masterpiece where all this leads to, a kind of cinematic sound design supporting his fragile, yearning vocal: “I try to show I’m human, my ghosts force me to prove it”.
With a canny distillation of contemporary r'n'b and old school soul, poetic allusions and unadorned honesty with elements of funk and ambient music, What We Call Life -- released a few weeks ago but which went past us at the time -- is a remarkable, crafted and integrated conception.
You can hear this album at Spotify here