D∆WN Infrared [EP]

[Fade to Mind; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: the soul of r&b distorted in space-time
Others: Nao, Egyptrixx, Bok Bok, Kelela

During a live performance in 2015 with Kingdom (a.k.a Fade to Mind label head Ezra Rubin), D∆WN took center stage as the vocal and kinaesthetic core in what the duo termed “the soul of R&B distorted in space-time.” The WAVES: Nexus Re-Morph event at Pérez Art Museum in Miami was an experiential negotiation that saw the melody, seductiveness, and power of a profound vocalist align with one of the most inventive musicians on the neo-futurist spectrum. The performance distorted typical notions of live spectacle through enforcing a joint commitment in establishing new channels for creative outlets while demonstrating newfound potential for audience interaction. A few months later, D∆WN then fronted a 360-degree live stream from the YouTube Space in L.A, which she used as a platform for not only reinforcing her promise to tackle shifting mediums but also for announcing joint endeavors with VR Playhouse, a virtual reality production company who specialize in integrating CGI and 360 video in “live-event activations.”

Neither artist, therefore, exemplifies a fear of challenging their musical method through experimentation with style or medium, and this fervor for the unknown lies at the heart of their new EP, Infrared. Having already announced her transition into what has been dubbed “The Red Era,” D∆WN is transforming the way that her art is broadcast and how she imagines listeners might interact with it. Collaborating with a producer who operates in aesthetic spheres that assume technological mutation appears to follow logically, then, and like D∆WN, Rubin’s preferences seem to constantly evolve, either by way of his label or in his music as Kingdom. In spite of making a name through tackling innovative approaches to bass manifestation and club music, Rubin has worked with the likes of Kelela (writing and producing tracks on Cut 4 Me and last year’s flawless Hallucinogen) in turning his hand to R&B song structures, where the neo-futurist sound that spans Fade to Mind fuses with deeply human and sentimental vocals.

Throughout the audacious glamor and obscurity of D∆WN’s second album, Blackheart, there emerged a distinct desire to experiment with musical content and configuration. Ideas concerning shifts in artistic mediums vs. means of artistic expression were hungrily explored, as they were provided their own platform to grow and swell without taking the influence of an immediate collaborator into account (see the brilliant “Adderall / Sold Out (Interlude),” for instance). On Infrared, those ideas are more compact and easy to digest, presented with an acute yet sentimental tone. There’s an open enthusiasm to project personal feelings and even confessions, wrapping them in that “futuristic” aesthetic while offering them across an experimental medium.

This resonates with the social implications of online communication; the back and forth internal debates about how and when to respond to messages as we make choices that impact our professional lives and intimate relationships all in a matter of seconds — where the consequences of immediate communication continue to be explored. D∆WN muddies these emotions on the opening track, where her conflicted feelings about a lover resonate with the subtle shimmer of Kingdom’s production. “I wanna be over you/ I wanna lay right next to you” she sings on “Honest,” indicating a desire to be sincere in her sentiments as opposed to not wanting to hold back. There’s a fire in her voice that yearns for emotional closure, but it’s complicated by frustrations in communication that are punctuated by Kingdom’s evenly-paced percussion and dub-flecked reverb.

The EP retains that feeling of multifaceted and expressive response throughout. The experience is short in duration by virtue of its format, which is unfortunate when taking into account all that’s being conveyed here. Infrared is only able to hint at the direction in which both artists are taking their sound. D∆WN is just as composed and resolute as she was on Blackheart, while Kingdom is running parallel visions of the grime-a-la-corps-of-drums enactment from his recent Shox EP by providing a sound that unites Fade to Mind with his collaborator’s technological aspirations. And even though D∆WN delivers some of her most personal material on here (“But you keep holding onto love/ The truth shattered/ Staring back at you,” she mourns on “Paint It Blue”), these tracks merely fulfill their purpose in offering a taste of what’s to come. But based on what we know, that could well be all that we are looking for right now: a dazzling interplay between the human and the technological, with an astonishing voice set to make sense of everything that remains.

Links: D∆WN - Fade to Mind

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