Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White are THEESatisfaction. awE naturalE is their debut album. It's both a dense sonic journey of woozy futuristic jazz-rap and a extraordinary exploration of race, class, gender and sexuality.
We shouldn't be surprised. They've already made their names through a handful of self-released Bandcamp mixtapes and their contribution on two tracks for labelmates Shabazz Palaces' monumentally awesome Black Up. awE naturalE is their proper debut, after the post-Black Up hype. And it more than lives up to the expectations. Just like Palaces' record it's an album that seems to suggest a shift in the hip-hop landscape. It's the sound of people who don't fit in, who are perceived as weird and it makes for a record that is both inspiring, fresh and pushing towards something new and exciting.
The musical pair are also a couple romantically and this intimacy comes across in the music. Through the futuristic blend of funk, soul and hip-hop their voices entwine to create otherworldly woozy soundscapes. At times it's reminiscent (to this writer at least) of Electric Circus-era Common, taking elements of Janelle Monáe, TV On The Radio and A Tribe Called Quest. But it is a sound that is uniquely and proudly theirs.
There are dreamy instrumentals throughout the record but the beats are mostly merely a bed for the vocals. Their voices work perfectly together, merging in a way that feels completely natural.
Take 'Earthseed', which begins with a lush and hypnotic groove before suddenly theirs is a verse of "Hitler stashed Obamas / Waving army coloured sashes / Rainbow flags blowing / Burning crosses, sprinkled ashes." Elsewhere 'Needs' features Tribe Called Quest beats and gorgeously evocative vocals.
Shabazz's Ishmael Butler shows up on 'Enchantruss' and 'God'. On 'God' he lends his skills over the top of a jazzy piano beat while 'Enchantruss' may be the best thing on here, a distorted vocal line forming the base as all three voices collide over the top.
The only qualm is that this woozy journey lasts just more than 30 minutes. It's over before it's really begun, leaving you in funk-psychedelic sci-fi limbo (or something). That aside this is a record that shows immense promise, a record whose trancelike rhythms wash over you – and it means that in the future we may not be able to get enough TheeSatisfaction. As they sing themselves at the start of 'Bitch' "You know you like that sound."