Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fatima's "Yellow Memories" is a Masterful Display of Soul/ R&B Talent

 by Dustin van Wyk

After multiple isolated projects that include her critically acclaimed 2010 EP Mindtravellin' and her extensive collaborations ranging from R&B cult hero Shafiq Husayn to left-field experimentalist Dorian Concept, Swedish-born London-based songstress Fatima has finally managed to consolidate her sound and presence on the modern R&B scene with the release of her highly anticipated debut LP Yellow Memories. Inspired by her travels between L.A and London while compiling the record, Fatima has encapsulated her experiences through a diverse blend of songs that showcase her versatility as an artist and songwriter. The patchwork of musical styles, attributed to the wide range of producers she acquired, are unified by the lyrical themes that she delves into as she takes inspiration from her personal background of growing up in her native Sweden in a multiracial household while searching for her own personal identity.

Opener "Do Better", an introspective song, is dramatic as it is soulful with quiet refrains that are met with explosive orchestral instrumentation as her vocals power through the expansive atmosphere of the track, leading to its blissful climax. The hazy and grimy textures of jazz-inflected "Technology" emphasise Fatima’s vocal diversity as her vocals swing over lo-fi beats and heavy 808 bass lines.

Previously released "Circle" is a melting pot of different textures that constantly meld into each other as cloudy drum machine loops are layered under midi Rhodes melodies, while lush harpsichords chime in the distance. Fatima’s rasping vocals are cocooned by a wobbly bass line emitting an infectious groove that permeates throughout the track. The exotic "Ridin Round (Sky High)" utilises a Middle Eastern sample as its melodic crux and builds the rest of the song around this, as nimble percussive clicks give way for metallic fuzzy synth lines that Fatima layers over with her expressive tones.

"Family" sees Fatima’s sentimental lyricism meet with looping kalimba arpeggios, syncopated shaker rhythms and warped out synth brass chord progressions. The bass carries the song's melodic motifs that Fatima playfully bounces off. "Biggest Joke Of All" is an isolated track with stripped down production that allows Fatima’s soulful melodies to flourish as she reminiscences about unrequited love (“Do you mean what you said last night/or is it just one of those in-the-moment things you say when you had too much to drink”), while floating over interlaced Rhodes patterns.

Album closer “You Gave Me My Name” serves as a perfect sonic resolve with its tranquil melodies and Fatima’s jazz-inflected vocal delivery. The track's gentle push and pull nature provides a sense of urgency as the keyboard melodies climb to meet her vocals. The track's painful story of an absent father is laid raw with Fatima’s sombre lyrics (“How can one plant life then leave/ Its breath without interest") as she reaches her musical apex with the refrain and title of the song (“You gave me my name”). Ultimately Yellow Memories can be viewed as a milestone for Fatima as she presents her ideas through an eclectic dish of tastefully built songs that serve a dual purpose of archiving her current musical ambitions as well as providing listeners an artistic foreshadow of what is to come from this refreshing emerging talent.