Gabi’el is a London artist who, it is said, “evokes her inspirations through music and movement”. She is described as a singer, writer and dancer who “explores the genres of Alternative, Hip hop, soul and RNB”. This latter description perhaps explains how difficult it is to categorise her sound. She certainly has the hip-hop sensibilities, yet she is quite soulful.
Those two combined, logically, would imply, perhaps, the Neo soul of the likes of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Basically, it seems to combine the soul originating from Motown, Stax and the like, with the drum machine, less emphasis on the live band experience, of rap and house music. She released her second EP, 7vnteen01, on Tuesday, May 3. This follows last year’s debut EP effort, Gabstract.
The opening track, “Didn’t Do It”, featuring Hermxn, has some Jamaican patois underpinned with a cloudy backdrop and rattling drums. Despite the skyward beat, there’s some slowed down vocals, so slowed down they sound demonic. The closing moments calm down, going from in the skies to towards the heavens.
Then comes “Cereal In A Cup”, produced by Ryan Shallow, which begins with percussion, industrial like the slamming of a steel door. The horns, as subtle as they are, make for quite a commanding track. The vocals are soulful, and are layered for something that makes for a well rounded performance in the vocal department.
The ethereal “Fallen Roses”, produced by Luke Thompson, is calm and relaxing, though you are caught off guard with how abruptly the rattling drums begin. There are backing vocals, a layer, which are wholesome yet melancholy, developing a sense of longing. The song perhaps alludes to the untimely demise of beautiful people, more so what they had on the inside than their perceived physical appearance.
“Face To The Ground” is prominent, perhaps the biggest sounding track on the EP so far, with some bright, yet solemn keyboard. It has wayward synthesiser, buzzing like a fly in the air. It features a rap from Hermxn, adding a brief yet overall complex aspect to the song. The demonic vocals samples make another appearance, yet perhaps more slow than evil sounding. Theme wise, maybe it indicates someone’s back, or face, to the world, as if to give up on life.
The EP ends with “No Excuses”, again featuring Hermxn. It’s nice and relaxing with a tinkling backdrop. This is at odds with the theme; that of no messing about, no compromising. There are subtle, slightly funky layers within the track, squelching, even. Those low voices appear, again, amidst many other things as the EP draws to a close. They ring out, creating a ponderous effect as the listener perhaps contemplates, and evaluates, what they’ve just heard, desperate for all it to sink in and absorb.
The recording is a good overall effort, and is strong in all songs, even for just certain aspects of them, track by track. What’s enjoyable, perhaps more specifically, is the continuation of subtle thematics throughout the length of the EP. These in turn, for many, probably make for the arguable highlights of the album.
The slowed down, demonic voices in “Didn’t Do It”; the slow vocal samples in “Face To The Ground”; and the low voices in “No Excuses” all make for a sense of progression. Perhaps, at least what makes it satisfying for this reviewer, is that it maybe conveys the gradual expelling of evil, or cleansing of oneself. Through the course of the three songs, you perhaps go from struggling to shrug off evil, to being neutral, and then to being a good and honest person.
Even in “Didn’t Do It”, you have the songwriter going skywards, with cloudy beginnings, followed by a clearing sky, which in turn becomes, arguably, an unblemished view of heaven. Given the stories, seemingly, of “Fallen Roses”, “Face To The Ground” and “No Excuses”, this is either an illusion or preludes some sort of fall from grace.
Speaking of those three, another aspect making for enjoyable points of perception are the messages of “Face To The Ground” and “No Excuses”, plus “Fallen Roses”. These, respectively, convey your back to world, having given up on life; compromising being absolutely no option; and the demise, or chopping down of the givers in life.
Pondering these in sequence, you get “falling and face to the ground“, “back to the world and face in the dirt“. Then, as you attempt to rise from the ashes of your destruction, you pull yourself upright with every ounce of strength in your body, “no half measures“.
Gabi’el, with this original mix of alternative, Hip-Hop, soul and R&B creates a neo soul effort, slick yet done with a certain craft, rendering it anything but disposable. She’s definitely got an edgy aspect to her sound and image, giving her identity above, daresay bland, people in similar music types. Punky in some respects.
Words by Andrew Watson