R&B / Neo-soul
RIYL: Sampha, JMSN, Daniel Caesar
There are certain records that you put on when you are feeling a certain mood. Some albums you select because you are angry. Others are chosen because you are filled with sorrow. Occasionally,
you will select music because you are in love and longing. Rowan Niemisto’s Gradient is one of those latter records. From his Facebook page, Niemisto states that he is constantly inspired by new and old forms of soul, jazz, and electronic music. That is certainly apparent here.
While Gradient is merely an EP, the content contained is ethereal and moody. It’s an EP I would select if I was missing someone special or swooning over a meaningful tryst. The EP opens with the minimalist composition “Without Trying,” that carries subtle back beats and moody synths. Paired with Niemisto’s gentle but shimmering falsetto, his voice hovers perfectly above the music, cracking at certain pitches to convey grief.
In a way, Gradient feels like a concept record where Niemisto assesses himself and his relationships. There are songs where it is apparent he is coping with some sort of longing on “Behave.” Others like “Flips” and the EP Closer “Honeymoon” are ethereal, yet touching. There is something about this pair of songs that give the listener a mental picture of laying in bed on a Sunday morning. Another description for those songs would be . . . perfect.
Instrumentally, each song varies from track to track. Some songs rely heavily on synths and 808s whereas others use more Jeff Buckley-like guitar to round out the sound. It is apparent that Niemisto is a brilliant songwriter as well. Each song has it’s own personality too. Since that is the case, each song can stand on it’s own. That said, it is nice to listen to the four-track from top to bottom. Not only does it give perspective – it’s just that wonderful to listen to.
Ultimately, whether soul and R&B music are your “thing” or not, this EP is a good introduction to a new style of soul. Musicians have created their own sounds, while keeping some of the same aesthetic as their predecessors. The result? A chill vibe for all.