EP REVIEWS: Lulu James – Rope Mirage

Written for DIY

Post-dubstep: a phrase to strike fear into the hearts of men. Or at least, men (or women) who don’t like labelling genres. It’s a good label, if it must have one, though. In the same way that post-punk describes all the interesting and innovative advances people made on the initial three-chord thrash, music in the post-dubstep mould is pushing dubstep’s blown-out bass and two-step drums into new, hitherto unexplored realms.

James Blake, obviously, was the pioneer. But following closely behind, treading carefully in his footsteps, is Lulu James. Like Blake, she’s using dubstep-style electronic music as her backing, and she has a powerful, soulful voice laid on top of that. Her voice is possibly even stronger than Blake’s, in fact, with less affectation or reliance on manipulation.

Across the four tracks of Rope Mirage Ms James shows off her dual personalities – on the spooky opening track she’s “Halfway to Hell”, before asking the listener to “use [her] as your guide to the right path” on “Be Safe” (which overlays her vocals to great effect) – which she fleshes out fully with her bewitching vocals and dramatically eerie drums, synths and samples.

“Halfway to Hell” employs white noise like a piece of percussion, whilst closer “Authority” is based around stabs of strings which sound like a high-budget Burial cut. Otherwise, the closest sound-a-like in terms of atmosphere is the trip-hop that came out of Bristol in the early nineties. However unlike Massive Attack, Portishead and the rest of them, the tempo is never plodding, and the (exhilarating) sense of threat much more palpable.

Breaking new ground on both fronts, Rope Mirage is a stunning, and stunningly accomplished, debut. But maybe don’t listen to it with the lights out.



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