- Compelling, understated and eclectic R&B from an exciting new voice.
- Umbra is the debut EP from New York-based producer, songwriter and bassist MIIV. Part Kelela, part FKA Twigs, part Eartheater, the record features eclectic yet downcast R&B songs about gender identity, mental health and relationships, often in the same breath. Written and produced entirely on their own, Umbra has a DIY feel that pulls you in close, like a trip into the artist's mind itself.
MIIV's voice is the guiding light here, though sometimes reluctantly. Their performances are occasionally hushed or even buried in the mix, but they're both charming and compelling, wending their way around each synth pad or muted hi-hat, picking a path through dense foliage. The gently processed vocals on the title track are both unnerving and entrancing, as MIIV's voice slides desperately in and out of tune as they sing, "This way that I put it on for you / I held for you," as if fed up with themselves as much as anyone else. These hushed vocal experiments feel vulnerable, making Umbra like a secret whispered into a hole in the ground only to be roared back by the wind.
There's a rough undercurrent to the production of Umbra that reflects the emotional turmoil. The soft synths on "Intermission (I'm High)" eventually clash with discordant, glitching violins. It's like seeing a storm brewing in the distance. And the EP ends with a mournful polyphony at the end of "Fantasy"—each instrument picks out its own notes seemingly independently of the others, but the bigger picture is one of beautifully harnessed chaos. In treading this line between flaw and correction, rough and smooth, MIIV forces the listener to feel the intensity of their emotional struggle, for them to feel just a little bit of what MIIV feels in that moment.
MIIV's willingness to be so vulnerable on their debut is impressive, showing an artist in constant conversation with themselves. Rather than letting contradiction or confusion get the better of them, Umbra sees MIIV taking it in stride, embracing the liminal as a place to breathe and collect yourself.
03. Intermission (I'm High)