JaJa Kisses, an “alternative R&B singer/songwriter” from West London, released her debut EP and mixtape, Young Fashioned, on Saturday, November 12. She’s “serving psychedelic vocals over celestially alluring bass infused trap instrumentals”.
“Glitchy sounds, honest vibes” perhaps a more succinct way of describing the ensuing proceedings.
The striking, purple haired rebel’s music very much came to fruition four years ago, releasing tracks of what perhaps has become her signature sound, that of layered acapella, on SoundCloud. She then released some music with the mysterious art collective, Last Night In Paris.
Now she’s “the first lady of the postmodern nostalgic art collective” by the name of SERØTØNIN. Member of latter, and producer, Flowzart, helped Kisses put the project together. She, individually speaking, has “vivid laid back soul edged vocals, threaded with a subdued intimacy in her cryptic lyrics which reveal the sensuous and sensitive content of her introspective thoughts and ideas”.
Inspired by the likes of Björk, Brandy, Solange, Lykke Li and St Vincent, this debut project endeavours in “exploring new textures within the realms of alternative R&B, Indie, Psychedelic Soul”.
“Limescale” is cleaner than the title suggests, opening with bassy electronica, moody and soulful. The vocals very indicative of the latter. That bass sounds submerged at one point, surfacing eventually for breath. A middle section swirls and reverberates taking the track from water to wind, a cyclone of power. The closing moments sounds like a track skipping, just on a more ethereal level.
The inward “Feelings” has a certain majestic magic to it. Sparse bottomless bass, with occasional rattling drum, again evoke the word moody. That magic seems to dissipate slightly, lending the track a more tragic feel. Her voice rings and echoes like singing down upon a vast Grand Canyon esque chasm.
She then wants to “Give Up”, booming industrial before the vocals evoke something more organic and spiritual. Is this woman versus machine, evoking a world akin to the Matrix film trilogy? Again, the vocals reverberate, but perhaps of a more ghostly nature. Things gradually strip back towards the song’s end, just light and gentle for the fadeout.
“Zoning” definitely incurs in one the feeling of zoning out. It’s grave, emotional and a tad tragic. Impassioned and driving without the need for chugging live band dynamics. The notes ring out towards the end, their emphatic emphasis truly appreciated by the listener.
The humorously named “Silver Knickers” is pulsing and, another aforementioned word, gentle. Rattling and clapping drum lend it a brooding quality, the vocals, perhaps suitably, both sensual and sexy. Ultimately done in a classy way, which can’t be said for many charged female performances, these days. A layered vocals refrain fades out the track.
JaJa’s a “Girl In Need”, and the deep soundscape urges in one pictures of inner city life. Perhaps downtown New York, and the like. What sounds like a subtle wah-wah effect dances a lead melody over the track, while JaJa anchors with the main melody.
Then you have “PIMMS”, which’s reached over 100,000 plays on SoundCloud. It’s urgent, dramatic and seems rooted in what sounds like glitchy computer game music, of several console generations ago. Aspects of it are slightly more refined than that, being both retrospective and, yet, something people of all console generations can appreciate.
“Allow Me”, booming and bassy, also has rattling and clapping of drum. The soundscape is quite sparse, mainly lead by the percussive aspects. The backdrop, melody wise, consists of JaJa and her voice layered and echoing, maybe medieval monks singing their hardship hymns in a monastery.
There’s a whirlwind of weather in “Blizzard”, and it’s, yes, layered, the backdrop sounding like it was double tracked to give particular aspects of it extra emphasis. Is this to convey a deluge of snowfall, like one you’d witness during a blizzard in the coldest of climates?
You then journey into the “Unknown”, which maybe, perhaps, also evokes its track title via the sounds used and how they’re arranged. It’s hard to put your finger on what many of the aspects are, individually, so maybe hence they’re unknown. Indeed, the bass is so deep and prominent, it’s the rhythmic stomps of the great unknown.
Curious track title number two, “Gold Bra”, starts with piano, grave and tragic. Then comes the dichotomy of synth, ringing and even more deadly. The two become combined, the understated piano versus the, maybe, monstrous unknown of the synthesiser. Mournful saxophone paints a picture, maybe the tragedy of conflict, for both sides?
“Instincts” has the sort of synth sound and deep bass reminiscent of aspects of West Coast G-funk. Rattling, clapping drum a hint of other influences, too. The closing moments are weirdly rousing, like travelling long, because of their electronica, distances through time and space with a mind state of endeavour.
There’s an interlude of sorts in “Ocean”, which’s a short track, the kind specifically engineered not as filler, but to help meld the space, thematically, from between the previous and to the next.
JaJa, to end, observes those moments “WhenYouSleep”. This one’s definitely has that I’ll see you again vibe that most projects worth their salt will end upon. It develops into a cacophony of swirling noise, before then veering between the ringing of mighty acoustic guitar strumming. Rousing, again, a word you could use. Definitely has a feel of defying all the odds.
Looking back, the most exemplary of highlights are heard in “Zoning”, “Girl In Need”, “Instincts” and “WhenYouSleep”. This is a good spread across the album, totally unlike potential singles concentrated densely. The first track not only suits its title with its zoning out vibe, it gets emotionally charged and impassioned without needing a live band setup. Emphatically it ends, the notes ringing for some epic closing moments.
“Girl In Need” and how it evokes downtown New York is truly picturesque in the listener’s mind. Maybe it seeks to portray Kisses’ native West London, and its less genteel parts? The way she holds down the underpinning melody, rather than the lead melody taken by that wah-wah effect, further suggests, indeed, she’s grounded and, perhaps, salt of the earth.
“Instincts” seems to have her take on elements of Nineties G-funk West Coast hip-hop. That and the rattling, clapping of the drum is quite appealing. Those rousing closing moments, furthermore, feel intergalactic, helping you to picture faraway planets, let alone faraway places. As good as music gets to the escapism of reading books.
Album closer, “WhenYouSleep”, with its I’ll see you again vibe is as much triumphant as it’s reassuring you’ll hear her, again; that she’s in it for the long haul. The word rousing reappears from “Instincts”, as that aforementioned triumphant feel is reinforced with that acoustic strumming guitar, mighty and rebellious.
Then you’ve got the trio of “Blizzard”, “Unknown” and “Gold Bra”. The first two are aptly named, their soundscapes evocative of their respective song titles. The first, for example, sounds like a whirlwind of noise, the sound of swirling snow. Then “Unknown” seems comprised of sounds hard to place in terms of their origins.
The last of the trilogy, if you like, is a continuation of “Unknown”. It pits the very human sounds of the piano, grave, tragic and fatalistic, against synth unquantifiable. The monstrous qualities of the latter evoke something of the great unknown; like the stomping Sasquatch, the booming steps of Big Foot. The saxophone, moreover, seeming to indicate tragedy, whatever the outcome.
This then links back up to “Silver Knickers”. On the surface, the latter, representing the first half of the album, is winning silver in the race of life. Then “Gold Bra”, representing the second half of the album, is winning gold in the race of life. Maybe silver is indicative of a sprint, and gold is indicative of a marathon.
Scratching that surface, you’ve got the silver, sensual and sexy. Its soundscape soothing and gentle. This, as said, delivered with class and not done in an overt manner. Come the gold, perhaps indicative of the heights to surmount, the aforementioned beasts to slay with very human hands and only the most rudimentary of tools? Its soundscape panicked and hostile. Maybe not winning at a canter?
JaJa Kisses offers a project that is evocative of many things, whether that be submerged in water, taking flight upon gusts of wind or travelling on quests far from home into outer space. On top of that, there seems to have been a lot of thought put into the track names, as the sounds she creates mostly very much suit the titles given. JaJa Kisses’ Young Fashioned can be heard on SoundCloud below.
Words by Andrew Watson