Clandestine press releases and flickers of photoshoots are alluring. The hushed whispers and rumours that surround new acts shrouded in a veil of mystique go into overdrive with every trivial detail or scrap of information that slips through. In a world where mystery in music is becoming an exciting norm, one musician is leading the pack: The Child Of Lov.
Cole Williams has been creating sounds for a decade and lives on flights between cities – it took a staggering amount of time for him to even release his name, let alone a good picture of his face. Finally, the cloak has been removed, and the 25-year-old Dutchman has permitted his bio to be revealed to the world. This game of cat and mouse he's played with the Internet and blogs is over, and we can focus on the debut album – a stunning collection that boasts guest spots from Thundercat, DOOM, Erykah Badu and Damon Albarn, not to mention behind-the-scenes work from Trey Reames, AKA 'the man behind Gnarls Barkley'.
His eponymous record is an off-kilter feast of avante-soul, post hip-hop and future R&B noises. It's the result of years of hard graft of a man fed on a diet of Stevie Wonder, J Dilla and Madlib. Often, the tracks do bear resemblance to an indie Gnarls Barkley – it's stunning. It's a train wreck, in the best possible way. A lot of the time it's tough to really listen and appreciate the music as you're rubbernecking all the weirdness on display. It's incredibly experimental, punctuated with odd noises and frantic, paranoid vocals. Imagine, if you will, Kanye West fed through a psychedelic meat grinder and forced to perform cover versions of Outkast songs. There's passages of Mexican death-balladry, Disney-style caterwauling and 90s rap. It's something that needs to be listened to multiple times to firmly grasp, but even from the first few notes, you know you've got something special.
'Heal' is funk-rock, with Basement Jaxx danceability, oodles of swagger and itchy falsetto; there's plodding, warped bass that underpins gospel vocals and wild guitar soloing to create something ominous yet groovy. 'One Day', the Albarn collab, is all vinyl crackle and deep-south hip-hop. Simmering 60s axe backing and the slow vibrations of synth bass have a slight echo of Plastic Beach Gorillaz, but the comparable moments are transient. 'Go With The Wind' is filled with glitch ticks and 80s pads, with Williams doing his best André 3000 impression. 'Fly' is erratic, jittery and blues-tinged. This whole LP is wonderfully incoherent, tied loosely together with Williams' psychotic love of American genres.
The Child Of Lov is a triumph. It may be disjointed, bizarre and somewhat derivative, but all the components slot together to create a sonic monster that no one else could have created. It's filled with fragile emotion and chest-pumping pomp, there are moments to boogie and moments to cradle yourself in tears. It's time to keep your eyes on The Child Of Lov-– but make sure you focus on his sounds. Ultimately, the mystery was fleeting. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, because this album is utterly incredible. Also, he looks a little bit like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it's pretty strange to imagine him singing neo-soul.