by Wesley Collett-Taylor
Azekel is, a radio DJ says during the interlude track “Late Intro,” “quite a mysterious character, it’s difficult to accrue any information about him online.” Here’s what we do know: Azekel is a British artist who’s been active since 2012, who wrote and produced his new EP Raw, Vol. 1, and the EP is pretty good.
Opening with “New Romance,” what’s first established is the groove. The timbre of the drums is so sweet, and the thudding chords combine with them in a neo-soul rhythm that drives the song. Everything on this album feels like it was played by old-school funk session players, even on tracks that feature mostly drum machines and programmed synth lines.
The lyrics on Raw are straightforward. We’re in the realm of the heart, and the EP examines every stage of a relationship from its birth till death. Each song features one repeated line, which works here because honesty is not always complicated. Sometimes our fears in a relationship are completely expressed by “Chronophobia”’s refrain “don’t let me waste my time.”
What stands out most is the second half of the EP. In the instrumental break “Sketches, Pt 1” the guitar, drums, and bass remind us that Azekel is a multi-instrumentalist as well as a producer, and the short track is well-placed in the album’s flow. Following this is “Holy Matrimony (Extended Version),” Raw’s romantic high point complete with guitar solo and a slow fade out, and then “Sold My Love.” “Sold my Love” is a poignantly sad note to end on, and makes the EP feel like a cycle that could start all over again at “New Romance” or be continued on an eventual part two.
Nothing that’s happening on Raw, Vol. 1 is groundbreaking; the jazz trumpet lines, the piano chords that replace electronic backing in a soulful chorus, and the vocal stylings have all been done before, but this EP just feels good, which is a pretty significant distinction. It’s got a sense of the understated that allows whole songs to work by not making any one part too big. There’s subtle sonic motifs, interesting instrumental work, and honest emotion. That feeling makes the difference between letting this EP play as background music and wanting to set up some speakers, grab your lover, and clear a space in your home to dance and get close.