Hatfield, Hertfordshire based Nigerian, AYLØ, released his first project, the Honest Conversations EP, Friday, December 23. The 22 year old Soul-Fusionist says the project is an “alt-soul-synthesis”.
People first heard of AYLØ when he released “Fusion”, an Afro-Fusion track, and it caught the ears of many.
Production is handled by the artist himself, Sute Iwar, Le Mav and DOZ. Midpoint track, “Island Girl”, features Odunsi and King Zamir.
He lists the likes of Soulection, PYRMDPLAZA, SANGO, IAMNOBODI, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Chance The Rapper, Little Simz, Jhene Aiko, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill and The Roots amongst his influences.
He starts “Dreaming”, which opens with shimmering keyboard and the sensual laugh of a woman; a woman who opens the track with a monologue. The subsequent line of “they was cotton pick” is thick and pronounced very African in essence. Bass is deep, rich and unprocessed; aided by jazzy drum.
By this time the vocals proper have set in, suitably moody amidst the kicked back instrumental. “Don’t trust no police” a line particular to the monologue of, this time, a man in the song’s closing moments. It rings out slow, sedate yet ringing.
After that, “Melanin” has similar shimmering keyboard, though aided by some unexpected, yet satisfying, wailing lead on the guitar. “The kind of love that give a ship and me to Mars” an apt line, men are Martians, from the sung vocals dedicated to a significant other.
The raps are packed tight, spoken with fiery determination. Is song title in reference to skin pigment, therefore race? Black pride? This ending also rings out, but maybe with more finality than the previous.
There’s almost an aside in “Island Girl”, which has a woman with an accent very heavy in its African essence, decrying men saying they’re this and that. Deep bass, occasionally slapping and popping to give extra mood, permeates through this particular soundscape.
AYLØ harks back to his “Memories”, which’s kicked back, though moodiness pervades. A brooding track. Processed drum contrasts slightly with the more organic elements, but works well. Its ethereal nature almost sweeps you off your feet, washing over you and, via the crest of a wave, to another place.
The raps, urgent and quite rapid, keep you grounded. However, the vocals do drop to a whisper near the end. You think you’re denied your passage to the land of the soothing sound; but your wish is belatedly granted, eventually.
Come the conclusion, the EP has AYLØ going round in “Circles”. It has a sun kissed vibe, wistful g-funk with melodic, high register bass aplenty. “Who want to be first person to fail?/I’m eatin’ ‘til I feast in the third circle of Hell” is only a small sample of how the track is ripped apart by ferocious lyricism. Badass intellect.
“Circles, circles, one, two, three/Everybody follows but nobody leads” is a hook that even inspires deep thought in itself, instead of being throwaway and inane. That aforementioned high register bass plays beautifully to the song’s end.
There’s a strong effort, here, and, out of five, there are four exemplary tracks. A quality return, on the whole, and a good spread of beginning, middle and end. These are “Dreaming”, “Island Girl”, “Memories” and “Circles”. Even “Melanin” has satisfying, wailing lead on the guitar. The opener, of course, satisfying for its deep bass, rich and unprocessed; aided by jazzy drum.
“Island Girl” has similar reasons to like it, in that, again, the bass is a prominent feature and a joy to listen to. This time, however, it slaps and pops, lending extra moody vibes. Either that or the bassist really digs in now and again for extra emphasis. It’s not constant, the moments are chosen well, the feel all the more emphatic for it.
Second from last, “Memories”, is a show of how processed sounds contrast slightly with the more organic elements. This working well, in fact. Not only that, its general ethereal nature is something that threatens to whisk you away to the heavens, only the urgent, rapid raps keeping you grounded. The vocals then drop to a whisper, and your ascendency is eventually granted. Excellent dynamics.
The closer, developing a bit of a theme from throughout, has, again, some prominent bass playing. This time, though, it’s far more melodic and high register than low and punctuating drum. It also has a sun kissed vibe, its wistful g-funk sounds accompanied with ferocious lyricism best described as hungry: “Who want to be first person to fail?/I’m eatin’ ‘til I feast in the third circle of Hell”.
Also, “Circles, circles, one, two, three/Everybody follows but nobody leads” hooks byond the throwaway and inane. It’s a line as if to ask where are the leaders, because the masses are like sheep following blindly.
AYLØ is a welcome surprise, especially with his deployment of live instrumentation. However, he’ll satisfy those with more electronic tastes, too. The way in which these disparate elements manage to meld together is key to this very much strong EP. Soulful and organic, aswell as somewhat hardened and industrial. AYLØ’s Honest Conversations EP can be listened to below.
Also visit his Twitter and Instagram pages to keep tabs on AYLØ.
Words by Andrew Watson