June 3, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Nouvul - TwinFlames (2013)

Jorge Wieneke has always been vocal in coming to terms with his urban roots. Even on the left-field serration of his solo electronic project, Similar Objects, his exploration of sounds and feelings sometimes echo Timbaland’s stuttering, futuristic production style and a lot of those you hear in PBRB records—from How To Dress Well’s minimalist ambient soul to Shlohmo’s late-night grooves. So it didn’t surprise me to hear him shred his soul to pieces on a new project called Nouvul—another solo venture of his that slides into the slimy vibe of late ‘80s and early ‘90s commercial R&B.

Reinterpreting the golden years of slow jams with detached prettiness, Jorge expands his repertoire with songs that might attract mainstream listeners who aren’t drawn to the sleek, lo-fi mutations of R&B: liquid and fragmented downtempo beats, wafting electronic tones, rhythmic counterpoints and all that Miguel-meets-Gaye quirks. His debut EP TwinFlames works on this premise, hard and cold, emphasizing the searing pain and joy of adolescent relationships while beating it under a sonic sculpture. Skeptics who still can’t get pass the trendiness of its bedroom production might dismiss this record as lacking in personality, even pick on the alienating approach that shaped its muddle of washed-out soundscapes and experimental energies. But unlike the bandwagon fetishisms of most releases filed under “drugged R&B”, Jorge makes accessible jams that weave impeccably through smoke and haze.

On “TheyDreamLady” and “Wayu” Jorge breathes new life as a pillow-talking gentleman taking on slow, seductive numbers that have more bump-and-grind feel to it than contemporary bluster. And while his production often lives up to the throwback breeziness and slink of R&B records in the 90s, the songs always connect with surprising amount of staying power and emotional sticking points.

Miki Hahn, who shares her languorous sweet vocals on three tracks (“Hopes Up,” “VIP,” and “EndofDay”), sounds great on slow-burning anthems developed with darker, more atmospheric strain. Her velvety singing, stuffed with melismatic sultriness and restraint, plateaus softly as it transitions from one beat to another, never too forced to peak that easily. It makes perfect sense that Jorge is careful not to overrun Miki’s vocal affectations with his trademark fractious production. After all, the inner beauty of these tracks lies on how calm and soothing Miki’s voice is, and a clever producer should know how to exhaust such quality to fuller effect.

Over the course of half an hour, TwinFlames churns lush, spacious bedroom jams that push the limitations of R&B to narcotic stretch. Jorge’s treatment on his new record doesn’t even come close to groundbreaking, but his efforts take it a step further to soothing extremes, enticing us back for a few more rounds.  B+ 

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