28 August 2016

Laura Mvula - The Dreaming Room


This is my second blog for the 2016 Mercury Music Awards and, I'll be honest with you, I'm not looking forward to it. The reason why is because I reviewed Mrs Mvula's first album (click here to read it) and although the singing was great - and it was also a refreshing change to hear a lady who was utilising actual talent to get noticed rather than any kind of gimmicks, the music wasn't up to much which brought the album down quite a few notches. Still, what can you expect when Eternal are cited as an influence, as I mentioned in the first blog. For the uninitiated, Eternal were a 90's girl group who were shit.

Not sure what else I can say so I'm gonna launch straight into it. Hopefully this will be better...

1) Who I Am - Ambient opener which reminds me of the music that the owner of the Houston Energy Corporation is listenting to when Jonathan E goes to see him (it's in the classic movie Rollerball). But it sharp turns from ambient to what sounds like rumbling white noise and ends abruptly. Wow, that was sudden. Still, it was quite a nice opener.

2) Overcome (featuring Nile Rogers) - Well, this is interesting. Thumping drum beats and what sounds like a funk guitar line mesh with ethereal keyboards and choir-like vocals. Think Enya jamming with Earth Wind And Fire and you're kind of there. Already we're hearing an improvement over the last album, I hope there is more like this to come. I definitely like this song.

3) Bread - Gentle keyboards opening with shimmer stingers give way to an intricate drum pattern with some nice vocals. Not as catching as the previous song but still not bad. Multi-tracked vocals help create an atmosphere akin to lying in a white room on a bed of cotton wool. Very nice.

4) Lucky Man - Multi-tracked vocals introduce to this song while bassy whooshing noises go off in the background like it's a Doctor Who special effect from the 70's. The song does get a bit ethereal towards the end. It's ok. Gets a steady beat going before disappearing in a multi-tracked outro.

5) Let Me Fall - A bit more lively compared to the last two songs, which is nice as it does good to change things up a bit. Yes, this is definitely an album highlight. The drum beat is a brisk one and there are an assortment of keyboards in the background. It's a heady mixture.

6) Kiss My Feet - This one starts off with one of those instruments that sounds like a music box or something. Almost like the intro to a horror movie. Some great vocals coming in before the main bulk of the song. Epic mid-section before it goes all back to normal. Nice strings too.

7) Show Me Love - Another one where it's quite sedate with only the choir-like vocals and ethereal keyboards for company. I'd usually be bored by now but I'm finding this to be very good, to be fair. Sounds like a timpani or whatever you call those big drums towards the end. This is also the longest song on the album at just over six minutes. That's practically prog in grindcore!

8) Renaissance Moon - A lovely strings melody plays whilst a crackling effect to simulate listening to vinyl plays over it. Could have been a bit longer as it's only 46 seconds and it's such a good melody!

9) Angel - Multi-layered vocals with what sounds like a couple of FX over the top of them then leads into some kind of jingly-jangly rhythm thing. It's not too bad, to be far. Quite quaint. At least it's better than that Sixx AM shite when they tried multi-layered vocals as an intro. Nice music too. In fact, the whole album has taken me by surprise as I was expecting the same as the last album but it hasn't been like that. Like Benjamin Clementine, it's flitted from straightforward stuff into moments that are unconventional. And more power for it!

10) People (featuring Wretch 32) - Another one which alternates between slow, thumping rhythms and none at all while the magic ethereal keyboards work their magic. The rap by Wretch 32 sounds a bit out of place though. Shame, as it's an otherwise good song.

11) Nan - A recording of a phone call between Laura and her Nan, a bit of talk about God, which is fair enough.

12) Phenomenal Woman - Easily the most straightforward uncomplicated song on here. Sounds funky, in the same vein as  'Overcome'. Not as good as that song but still a decent one.

And there you go, turns out I had nothing to worry about! I don't feel as bad listening to this album as I did the last one so that's a bonus. All in all, it was a decent album which showcased more variety than the last one, seems that Mvula has ditched Eternal in favour of Enya which if you ask me, is an improvement already. If she keeps this up, I may even become a fan.

7/10 - This is good and well worth a check.

Chris J.

Top Track: Overcome.

This album is available on iTunes.

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