- Subtle soundsystem pop from the Bristol trio.
- Sometimes, it only takes two chords. From Bill Evans' "Peace Piece" to Rheji Burrell's ""Apt 3A," masterful artists have used a couple of subtle voicings as the foundation for timeless art. On the second record from the Bristol trio Jabu, this less-is-more philosophy rings true once again. Many of the record's strongest tracks—"Lately," "Slow Down"—are dreamy, sub-bass heavy pop songs that revolve around a pair of blue chords.
Jabu found its sound early. Its original producers—Alex Rendall and Amos Childs—are core participants in the Young Echo collective. The addition of Jasmine Butt in 2017 placed Jabu firmly within the Bristol tradition of sweetly sung, heavy-lidded trip-hop. In the months leading up to the album, Jabu hinted at a stylistic shift—a tape with the poet Daniela Dyson and then a pre-album single, "Lately," indicated some pastel colour had seeped into the comparatively dour palette explored on their 2017 LP, Sleep Heavy. These dreamy touches, felt everywhere from the album's artwork to the lyrics, make Sweet Company a far more beguiling listen than its predecessor.
Sweet Company is still murky as hell, with Rendall and Butt singing through high-ceilinged halls of reverb and swirling dub effects, but the foreboding feeling that permeated Sleep Heavy is now subsumed by a wistful intimacy. "Loving used to make the time slow down," Rendall sings on "Slow Down," before Daniela Dyson appears with an evocative spoken-word section: "I tread the desire lines of your eyelids... the walls will whisper bland echoes of our sweet somethings / to the lovers who try to fill our shoes."
On "Us Alone," Butt keeps the fire burning, at least by the standards of disembodied pop music. "Making your tenderness a part of me," she intones breathily. "I always knew you were the one to please." The pop nous on display here—observed in the skillful interplay between the male / female lead vocalists and the minimalist, dub-meets-dream-pop production—begs for comparison to more popular artists. Jabu is like The xx with better taste, or if Beach House spent their formative years at Aba Shanti-I gigs. And there's a convincing single here to boot. "Lately," featuring fellow Young Echo member Sunun, is the most succinct summary of Jabu's thesis to date, a pop song that perfectly balances Rendall's ghostly R&B vocals with Bristolian bass pressure.
Jabu references 69, the 1988 full-length from dream pop originators A.R. Kane, as a primary influence on Sweet Company. There's a clear parallel with the ethereal wall-of-sound created by the layering of Alex Ayuli and Maggie Tambala's vocals on "Crazy Blue," but the connection is also heard on more low-key moments like 69's closer, "Spanish Quay," which begins with a skeletal, pretty guitar figure, then takes a left turn, concluding in a somber melodic wash. Jabu pulls a similar trick several times on Sweet Company. "Selfish," a downtempo trip-hop tune, eventually dissolves into a dreamy soundscape. Jabu recognizes the outsized potential of these small moments. Their pop songs are full of subtle gestures—whispered vocals, cascading delays and simple, alternating chords—that lodge in the listener's memory.
01. Water Temple
02. Slow Down feat. Daniela Dyson
03. Lately feat. Sunun
06. Paper Thin
07. Blood Pink
08. Us Alone
09. Sweet Company feat. Daniela Dyson