- Ethereal neo-soul.
- "I wanna get people in their feelings… My intention is love, and it always has been," Greentea Peng says on Sengsation, a newly released documentary about the recording of her debut album Man Made. The South London-born singer-songwriter, whose hippy neo-soul style takes inspiration from artists like Miss Dynamite and Erykah Badu, is on a mission to create "music for your soul, not your brain." Her inclusion on the BBC's Sound Of 2021 shortlist suggests her unique blend of jazz, funk, R&B, hip-hop and reggae influences is gaining deserved recognition. Last August's single "Hu Man" hinted at a shift in emphasis away from dense, bassy R&B and towards clean, acoustic drums and instrumentation, a more clear-headed direction that her debut LP Man Made runs with.
This hour-long, 18-track debut album is the product of several weeks spent in the wilderness with live band The Seng Seng Family. Man Made plays like an extended jam session, featuring a series of soulful, psychedelic soundscapes that transport you to the sun-dappled Surrey woodlands where it was recorded. You get the feeling that Greentea Peng poured her entire being into the recording sessions, an urgency conveyed in moments like "'Dingaling''s rallying cry: "Here lies your fortune / In the shape of a good tune". A quick glance at song titles like "Make Noise" and "This Sound" emphasizes her preoccupation with music and noise. Her constant expression of the restorative, healing impact of music is powerful, embodied by lines like "This sound is sensual, and plentiful / Our chemical, it's medicine… Now open wide and let it in."
Music as medicine is the album's most important theme. In the past, Greentea Peng's struggles with substance abuse and mental health were mirrored by dense, distorted textures—Man Made feels like a cathartic release, a way out from it all. You get the sense Wells is at her freest and most comfortable here, her vocals elevated by the light and loungey live instrumentation surrounding her. You can hear it best in "This Sound," a funky workout where Wells rhymes, "This sound is physical / It's very physical and literal / But metaphysical and mystical," a nod to both her spiritual underpinnings and hip-hop inspirations that lay at the root of her sound.
Greentea Peng shifts fluidly between stylistic influences throughout the Man Made. On "Be Careful," an enchanting woodwind melody curls around hi-hats that flicker like the hiss of a serpent, while "Sinner" diverges into distorted grunge before its sudden conclusion. Elsewhere, the outro of lead single "Nah It Ain't The Same" includes the kind of frantic jazz drumming seen in Damien Chazelle's 2014 film Whiplash, a bracing music education drama which I think of every time I hear Wells sing about her obsession with the rapturous, adrenaline-inducing powers of music. Psychedelic sounds are also crucial in shaping this record. The spacey pads and echoed vocals of 'Meditation' reflect an album-wide reliance on the resonant audio effects, varied instrumentation and transcendental melodies of neo-psychedelia.
Man Made is, in some ways, a departure for Greentea Peng, though the natural way Wells takes to the LP's funky, band-driven approach suggests she's been poised to make a record like this. Her voice feels liberated, more honest and direct than ever, though her youthful energy remains when she chants lyrics like, "We've got to fight for our right to party" at the end of the jazzy closing track "Jimtastic Blues." The shift towards live instrumentation makes for a more earthy, inviting atmosphere, a genuine contrast—and, arguably, improvement on—previous EPs Sensi and Rising. A testament to her versatility and willingness to experiment, Man Made entrenches Greentea Peng's position as one of the UK's most exciting young songwriters.
01. Make Noise
02. This Sound
03. Free My People feat. Simmy and Kid Cruise
04. Be Careful
05. Nah It Ain't The Same
08. Mataji Freestyle
09. Kali V2
11. Party Hard Interlude
14. Man Made
16. Poor Man Skit
18. Jimtastic Blue