At 21 Lulu James is already making waves in the UK music scene, having sung professionally for 2 years, she is now carving her way as a solo artist with a very distinct sound and feel. Earlier this year she released her ‘Rope Mirage’ EP which was featured on SBTV’s Ones to Watch list, got her an interview with The Guardian and set the scene for what we hope will be an exciting career starting with the release of her first single BE SAFE on November 12th on Black Butter Records, and a full album early in 2013.
Growing up in North Shields (on the outskirts of Newcastle, try google maps if you’re not sure) there isn’t a lot of famous musical talent in the area to explain the sound that we’re hearing from Lulu James. We have the likes of Hilton Valentine (original guitarist of the animals), Neil Tennant (lead vocalist of the Pet Shop Boys) and the likes of Joe McElderry and Cheryl Cole (from Newcastle) who both won reality TV series in order to get famous. So where does that leave Lulu? According to her PR company she grew up on the likes of Whitney Houston, India Arie (they spelt it wrong in their press release tut tut!) and Aretha Franklin; which explains the soulful tones, and raved to the likes of Fly Lo, Mount Kimbie and Jamie XX. Throw in the UK producer Domzilla to this and you get a crazy eclectic mix that can’t be pigeon holed into any specific genre. So far Lulu James is far out doing her fellow local musicians.
So onto the good stuff, what did we think of the EP?
Let’s start with the title track Rope Mirage. It takes a while to build up, which is unexpected for a title track, it’s subtle. When it does build it does so with some serious alacrity of sound, moving from very stripped electronic emphatic echoing layers of sound that might sound similar to the tracks featured on the Sucker Punch soundtrack (Emily Browning; Emiliana Torrini; parts Yoav). Saying that, there is an alluring Neo soul tone to the vocals, with amazing range and texture that makes you want to listen further, and which allows the arrangement and composition of the track an element of Florence and the Machine, though darker and more gritty, but with a very heavy British RnB expression and tone.
The vocals do, however, essentially save the track from being too overpoweringly tech, and add structure via a very rhythmic back beat. By the time the track gets into full swing, it evens out a lot more and the underlying heavy beat of computerised sound, against the vocal arrangement helps to create a very hypnotic, very smooth, though at time, overly experimental track, and considering the tone of the current music scene, a different listening experience. It makes us think of Morcheeba or even a deeper soulful Moloko or Róisín Murphy (ala Dear Miami), but replaces the heavy 90s groove element with an equally and sometimes over heavy electronic synthesised drum beat overlaid with elements of dubstep.
Halfway to Hell starts with a different vibe, with a stripped down backing track it allows the eclectic sound of James’ vocals to echo through with a stark, strong quality that continues throughout. once the track begins it does so in ernest, adding sultry soulful tones to a heavy, dark back beat. It’s a track that is simple and atmospheric and with the added chorus, induces images of Supermassive Black Hole: slow motion vestiges of crowded dark soho nightclubs (let’s forget the vampires for a little while…). This track rings of Jame’s unique style, this time with more of a Sade-esque vibe, with added attitude and once really setting off, sounds like they’ve added a touch of the lighter element of this years popular indie style ala Foster the People.
This arrangement is mud simpler and a lot more mellowed than Rope Mirage, which really helps clear the way for the superb quality and range of her voice, and the clarity of her lyrics; without taking away from her style.
Authority is the last track of the EP and starts out with a more technical, computerised aspect, linking back to Rope Mirage but lighter in tone than the second track Halfway to Hell. It still manages to retain the raw, dramatic, elected melodies that Lulu James brings, this time over a grittier back beat. It builds from sounds like two or three loops adding layers until it brings, again, a darker tone, but with a very early RnB/Funky House, almost Garage edge to the lyrics.
The modulation of the techno element didn’t sit well with us, but lyrically the arrangement is likeable, blending in to make a uniformity of sound, something that works in its own way.after hearing the other two track, it shows that authority, whilst having that slight difference in sound, doesn’t move away from Lulu’s candid style.
So in conclusion we would have loved to have heard more, but being an EP it is short and sweet. We’ve had an intro to James’ striking vocals and the production magic of Domzilla, not that we always agree with the arrangement of things, maybe we’re just a bit too old school for that right now. So far James is doing amazing things with her solo work, and we expect for her to make epic waves in the British music scene as well as at a global level. We’re looking forward to the release of BE SAFE and hearing a complete album early in 2013.
Find out more about Lulu James here: