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A spattering of white and blue constellations surrounds three acrylic planets which collectively stare out from the cover like an astral eye. This is “Orbit”, Alice Phoebe Lou’s debut album, and something well-worth paying attention to. The album itself projects far more than just the music – every song is accompanied by a striking illustration each courtesy of one of eight individual artists. Independently recorded between Cape Town and Berlin, the two cities Lou dubs home, the 9-track project has been crafted with the facilitation of a number of fellow muso’s including Thor Rixon and Italian musician Matteo Pavesi, who often accompanies Lou on stage with the monosynth and several instrumental additions.
Her unique, all-encompassing blend of folk-jazz inflections is difficult to quite pin down. Off kilter melodies are paired with her distinctive vocal style to create a stepped and scintillating sound. The opening track, ‘Girl On An Island’ lays just a touch of Alice’s heart on her sleeve for your perusal, with ethereal undercurrents and vocals swinging from a rolling treble to breathy falsettos.
Perhaps the most riveting facet of “Orbit” is found in ‘Society’ – aided by a striking music video was released just a few weeks ago. A life-sized, painted depiction of Alice branded the wall beneath the Buitenkant bridge for several weeks late last year, with the lyrics “Oh society, what have you done to me?” stamped in red across the grey concrete. The artwork, courtesy of Chris Auret, served as a cathartic slap in the face for passersby until society, oh-so-ironically, drowned it in grey paint.
Chiming crystal melody wraps glass tendrils around ‘Red’, whose sparkling silver edges, rather than drowning it out, lifts the melancholy of the track carefully to the lighter surface. A boldly naked element winds its way through the album, striking a stark parallel between melodic simplicity and lyrical intricacy.
“One foot on the pavement/and one foot in the milky way.” So aptly opens the six-minute title track whose instrumentally fleshed out interior leaves it bursting at the seams, what with all that was both said and left untold.
Gradually gathering power it approaches a teetering brink, balances on the very edge, and then withdraws back into its complexity. Channelling a wisdom which seems to far succeed her years, Alice Phoebe Lou squares up to the corruption of the world with a quiet, palpable power – the barefoot busker on the streets of Berlin.
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Listen to ‘Orbit’ below on Deezer.