THEESatisfaction THEESatisfactionAwe Naturale
The vintage artwork is a good start. The afros are abundant; mounds of backcombed hair showing the way. But don't be fooled, this is not the umpteenth retro pop soul record. THEESatisfaction look at the past with measure, in fact, the best thing about them is that what they borrow is a unique futuristic shine; a decidedly arty sound, close to that urban jazz Shabazz Palaces so successfully showed off on last years' “Black Up”. It's no coincidence that the members of this band participated on the acclaimed (maybe even a bit overrated, IMHO) album by the former Digable Planets MC.
Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White have gone from the realm of self-releases and EPS to the big league of indie labels. The Seattle duo inked a deal with Sub Pop, the profoundly rock label looking to expand, seeking, among other things, new generation Afro-American sounds, like it did with Shabazz. And both parties did an excellent job of it. “Awe Naturale” is a delicate, positive, candid piece of work: it oozes groove and it smells of new. The girls' future soul spreads a calm light, almost spiritual, and its electronic sounds feel like cashmere: this is advanced soul, toasted funk, designer hip-hop, with tribal nods and plenty of melodic sensibility.
Stas and Cat brilliantly intertwine their voices and use them like instruments. They tell their stories with astonishing musicality: they can sing like Erykah Baduh or Georgia Anne Muldrow, rap like Lauryn Hill, whisper like Alicia Keys, and they do it all seemingly without effort, taking the listener by the hand while diving into a pool of up-to-date ambrosia. It's a relaxing album, full of positive vibes, one of those you listen to on a Sunday afternoon, while you're playing in the garden with the dogs, or smoking a couple of spliffs with your friends before lunch.
The record aims at coolness and shoots using a silencer. Progressive free-jazz, with refined vocal melodies and catchy rhymes on “naturaE”. Afro-beat and soul sexuality through a FlyLo filter on “Needs”. Latin jazz with a futurist batucada and Shabazz Palaces' raps on “God”. Colourful spoken word and vocal acrobatics on “Bitch”. Hypnagogic R&B and funky tutti frutti on the marvellous “QueenS”: it's all beautiful, but the desert island track for me is “Sweat”: Blaxploitation horns, vintage breakbeats, summery strings and purring vocals. It's tracks like these that make you long for a long, hot summer. Someone call Jill Scott and tell her she's not alone.