Origin - Jordan Rakei (Album Review)
Released: 14 June 2019
Album Rating: 3.5/5
Live Potential: 4/5
Diversity in Songs: 4/5
Favourite Songs: Mad World (track 1), You & Me (track 8), Speak (track 10)
Soulful London-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jordan Rakei has released his latest outing, Origin, via indie label Ninja Tune. Origin is the 27-year-old’s third studio album, his second with Ninja Tune, and builds on from Wallflower, an intimate picture of the singer’s self-grappling with anxiety, mental health and introversion. In contrast to Wallflower, Origin is much more expansive and bigger in its ambitions. The record is inspired by dystopian visions of the future, drawing inspiration from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Discussing the themes of Origin, Rakei explains that “I’m worried that we’re losing a sense of connection”, believing that our ever-increasing use of technology is driving us apart from each other and alienating us from real experiences. With Origin, Jordan Rakei has maintained his signature jazz-infused soulful sound but also explores other realms of sound to produce a brighter and more pop orientated record, despite its dystopian undertones.
Alongside producing music under his electronic alias Dan Kye, the New Zealand-born, Brisbane-raised, artist has fully embedded himself within the bustling London music scene, frequently collaborating with the likes of guitarist Tom Misch, rapper Loyle Carner, pianist Alfa Mist, as well as jazz drummer Richard Spaven.
Origin opens boldly with ‘Mad World’, setting the tone of the record through strident keys and handclaps before these sounds are joined by twirling electronic patterns as Rakei declares “Swat away from emotion and madness / Stay away from the streets”. ‘Mind’s Eye’ (track 3), one of the singles from the album, paints a picture of a future world in which wearable tech has been superseded by tech implanted in the human body. The tune begins with Rakei’s stripped back soulful vocals being supported by a sliding guitar before giving way to layered harmonies and synths. ‘Mind’s Eye’ is a clear example of the singer-songwriter’s fine poetic writing which is ambiguous and phonetically pleasing, allowing us to be swept up by his lyricism, melodic vocal lines and rich harmonic writing.
‘You and Me’ (track 8) is one of the highlights of the record, starting with an emotive piano intro before a pulsating drum beat pairs with Rakei’s vocals to bring us to the opening verse. What this track demonstrates, once again, is Rakei’s unique use of lush harmonies and his ability to seamlessly switch between musical styles, via breaks, within a single song. A standout moment is towards the end of the song when Sam Crowe is unleashed on the piano, his playing brilliantly blends with the prominent drum beat to create an enthusing jazzy solo before both melt away to leave Rakei’s vocals standing bare. ‘Speak’ (track 10) is another spell-binding part of the album, which reveals more traditional instrumentation, and demonstrates beautiful string playing (arranged by Stuart McCallum) with the track being orchestrated by Mark Slater. The final track is an Indian inspired song which shows Rakei’s playful interchange of musical styles once more, which is cleverly named ‘Mantra’ (track 11) – meaning diversity or incantation. Josh Arcoleo’s sax playing here is particularly compelling, especially when we are treated to the sax break paired which is wonderfully paired with Frida Touray’s backing vocals.
Overall, Origin is another great album from Jordan Rakei. In terms of musical variety and depth, the second half of the is much more captivating – with the first half of the album (the majority of which was unsurprisingly released as singles) feeling much more pop orientated and commercial. However, this is not to discredit the first half of the album, as it is still upbeat, funky and fun. Despite the first half of the album being less musically rich, the entire album is a valiant effort from Jordan Rakei. With Origin, Rakei once again exhibits a combination of his wide musical writing ability, his lyrical writing prowess and his firm grasp on his unique soulful sound.
Listen to Origin here:
Purchase Origin here: https://ninjatune.net/release/jordan-rakei/origin
UK October 2019 Tour Dates:
10 Oct - The Mill, Birmingham, UK
11 Oct - Academy 2, Manchester, UK
12 Oct - Uni Stylus, Leeds, UK
15 Oct - SWX, Bristol, UK
16 Oct - Concorde, Brighton, UK
18 Oct - Roundhouse, London, UK