Lily Allen, Sandi Thom, Arctic Monkeys and Owl City all have social media to thank for their respective careers. MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook have played their parts in reinventing how music is consumed; for better or for probably worse. The latest out of the platform-sharing sweatshop is soul artist Kwabs.
It was clear from this first screening – caught as a home-video that slipped through the net of the YouTube technicians – of his cover rendition of Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Like A Star’, Kwabs exuded a significant towering blue eyed soul voice. Away from becoming some gimmicky, self-absorbed, damaged wonderment, the 25 year old has further pushed the constraints of modern soul; in ways unheard of before Amy Winehouse opted to begin her twisted career. A Sunday night at Manchester’s Gorilla cemented his newfound status.
Coating this forceful tenor with warped seeds of hushed electronica, Kwabs demands his melodies glide above the driven nature of the backing score. Consistently there is a glimmering sheen added with two proactive vocalists that entangle and groove in time with the Londoner. ‘Forgiven’ united these principles. Kwabs’ – regimentally detaching himself from the conceived conventional imagery most contemporary performers arouse, opting for a cup of PG Tips as opposed to warm bottles of mid-range, continental lager – vocals throughout it remained enigmatically alluring; bursts of melancholia frequented his melodies.
Kwabs remained static for parts, allowing his gritty take on Marvin Gaye tackles Ben Harper utterances to shine within ‘Look Over Your Shoulder’ – notable for its blinding dancefloor synth, it demonstrated Kwabs commercial attractiveness whilst retaining the quivering impace his voice has become renowned for – before leaving the transfixed coma and trundling to the floor and into the eyes of the shaking Mancunians. ‘Lay Back’ was a standalone track in a similar guise to the set’s opener ‘Saved’ – a crumbling, dirty affair, the buckling synths danced in time with the shooting, yellow illuminations festering within the room – with the electronic semblance of sound that represented James Blake’s shifting sequence stuttering against Kwabs.
‘Love and War’ was a crowd raiser; looping late 90s piano supplement the tribal beats as streams of hand-clapping, kissing and dancing exploded across the room. His debut promises to be a sun-kissed album befit for any au courant soul collections. ‘Walk’ is the single that produced the hype. Infectious club pop that co-ordinates Kwabs’ murmurs with elements of instinctive electro.
Far from absorbing career advice from the likes of Thom, The Bugles and The Worzels, the key to the troubadour’s path will be longevity. He is one appearance with Disclosure away from immortalising himself within the country’s conscience. And one evocative album from the critical acclaim he truly deserves.
Words by Clive K Hammond