Erika de Casier
Erika de Casier isn’t searching for perfection – she’s just trying to show you where she’s at right now. The 33-year-old Danish singer, songwriter and producer built a cult following with her 2019 debut album Essentials, and emphatically built on that “cult” designation with 2021’s Sensational, her first album for 4AD. In the past few years, she’s performed at some of the biggest festivals in the world, written for pop stars and sung on hyped dance tracks. But when she ushers you into the expanses of her third album—with a coy “Welcome… it’s gonna be a lot of fun”—she’s inviting you to leave any crass The Nordics’ Next Big Thing or Rising Alt-Pop Star epithets at the door, next to your shoes and coat. De Casier may have won a lot of new fans in the past three years, and a lot of high-profile collaborators, but as this album’s title confirms, she’s the same old Erika de Casier. Still.
As a Dre- or JLo-ism, Still’s title is a wry joke, continuing the braggadocious naming conventions of de Casier’s first two records. Really, it refers to the fact that Still represents a snapshot of de Casier’s life and creative process at this point in time: her increasing proficiency as a producer, which sees her producing other voices (They Hate Change, Shygirl, Blood Orange) for the first time, and working with live musicians in addition to samples; and her continued exploration of what it means to fall in and out of love in the 2020s. Still charts the ups and downs of a relationship, from the puppy love phase through to malaise and heartbreak, while acknowledging that love is a hard thing to find in a world marked by disconnection and career instability.
All of this is to say that Still is classic de Casier – a hard thing to say about the third album of basically any artist other than de Casier, who hit on an idiosyncratic mix of luxuriant electronica and moonlit R&B with her earliest singles, and has spent the years since drilling further into that one-of-a-kind sound, discovering new facets of it with each successive record. “There’s a part of me that wants to satisfy the people that know my music. I don’t want to change too much, but I also want to feed my need to develop, and not be stuck,” she says. “But I’ve found that it’s hard to escape your own sound.”
De Casier fuses those two warring impulses into an album that’s indelible and richly textured, the softness of de Casier’s music still belying an impact well above its weight class. After making Sensational during the height of the pandemic, de Casier wanted her follow-up to be “more open to collaboration.” N, co-producer of Essentials and Sensational, returns here; added to the fold are Jonathan Jull Ludvigsen, Carl Emil Johansen, Niels Kirk, Christian Rhode Lindinger, Nick León, Kirsten Nyhus Janssen and Tobias Sachse, adding live drums, synths, guitar, bass and more to the mix. These musicians, as well as de Casier’s chorus of friends who sing and rap on the record, add a jolt and crackle to her world; where those first two records felt like dispatches straight from the recesses of de Casier’s brain – intimate thoughts slinking through the ether at 2am – Still feels like a conversation between friends in the backroom of a crowded bar.
Those friends embolden de Casier to deliver some of her most emphatic songs ever. She borrows Shygirl’s icy touch and León’s fondness for sensual irregular rhythms on “Ex-Girlfriend,” an aqueous R&B-reggaeton track whose taunting lyrics are a sharp contrast to de Casier’s sweet vocal: “When your phone rings/Do you wish it was me?/With my cute face/That showed up on your screen?/There’s a reason I’m your ex-girlfriend.” The funky “Ice,” a collaboration with They Hate Change, sees de Casier moonlighting as the Tampa duo’s third member, flipping a classic hip-hop trope (“Ice–you put it all on me,” she sings) into a comment on a frustratingly noncommittal person. On introspective cuts like “Twice” and “Anxious,” Ludvigsen’s delicate drumming resonates like the patter of rain on a window, the backdrop for some of de Casier’s most heart-wrenching breakup songs.
If Essentials was filled with perfect songs about flirtation and new love, and Sensational added wrinkles in the form of partners who were rude and plainly annoying, Still sees de Casier writing about genuine heartbreak with a new clarity. “Toxic” simmers with growing resentment, its lithe production hiding unseemly truths—“I must be getting pleasure/From all of this terror/Or why are we together?”—while “Anxious”, a ballad that carries an almost elegiac sadness, conveys the sheer exhaustion of staying in a failing relationship.
As ever, these tracks prove that de Casier is a master of writing songs that speak to universal experiences of modern life, even for all their specificities and quirks. Never is this more clear than on “Princess,” on which de Casier wonders whether the impression she had of adult life as a child—one in which motherhood and a career weren’t diametrically opposed—is just a fantasy. While she says the narrative she threads on “Princess” “is not a new story,” it’s undeniably one that’s rarely heard in pop music, and which de Casier imbues with a heartbreaking sense of yearning.
For all the new heaviness that arises on Still—and the subtle political valence that comes alongside—de Casier’s music remains as fun and sensual as it’s always been: “Home Alone,” a track that recalls the featherweight club music of DJ Python, is underpinned by a loop of de Casier saying “sexy” over and over; “Test It” plays like a sequel to Sensational’s “Busy,” de Casier scheduling visits with a new love interest between shifts. Still confirms that there are few artists making music that so freely slips between sensitivity and irreverence, sex and sadness. Among all the success, the accolades, the acclaim, her greatest achievement may be, simply: she’s still Erika de Casier.
South Carolina-based artist, Contour, arrives on London's Touching Bass with 'Onwards!' — an evocative, twelve-track journey through black art both past and contemporary with soul, electronics and archival material at its core.
“The record exists as a bridge in conversation between today’s artists and art of the past which offered potential ways to navigate the world that we’re in; personally or on a larger scale” says Contour.
Shared today is “Hearing Voices", the first single which “explores the relationship between our conditions of living and working and how we process or fail to process them”. Contour directed the accompanying music video, a filmic performance seemingly set in a work study. The single is about how work can sever “our connection to intuition”.
Khari Lucas describes himself as multifaceted, including musician, score composer, film and radio programmer within his universe of practice. Contour — the musical alias he started in 2014 — is the vessel for his musical research, songwriting and production.
'Onwards!' arrives in October 2022, following on from 'Weight (2020)' and 'Love Suite (2021)'. Both previous records were impressive calling cards for the now 27-year-old, diving deep into a rich and incredibly vivid imagination set to a blueprint influenced by soul, hip-hop and psychedelic rock but moving way beyond. This third body of work serves as an expansion of his songwriting ability, both lyrically and thematically, through and beyond autobiographical expression.
During 2020, Khari spent a lot of time reading works from poets, writers, and theorists involved in the black arts movement. Films, including many from the L.A Rebellion movement of the 80s, became a recurring source of inspiration. As did a recently purchased Roland SP-404 originally intended for organising samples, which turned into his personal audio diary populated by a multitude of sound bites.
Using this vast pool as a foundation, alongside additional samples and select co-production from collaborators Swarvy and 10.4 ROG, 'Onwards!' blossomed into Khari’s most accomplished synthesis of sample-based production and the direction his songwriting skills were already moving in.
This project comes from the emotional exploration and metabolization of the media he consumed during this time. It encapsulates his digestion of the intersection of political and emotional realities. Via soundbites and references, he places art ancestors and influences in conversation with his work.
Outside of this latest offering, Khari has collaborated with visionary black fashion house, Telfar, to launch their Black Camo line, co-directed/edited (Fresh Rain, 2021) and scored (Half-Day, 2022; One Magenta Afternoon, 2022) film, and is a seasoned resident artist. Most recently for New York’s non-profit cultural centre Pioneer Works, NTS Radio’s WIP programme and as a guest curator for the New York-based art publisher and performance space, Montez Press Radio.
As Contour, he has supported contemporary musicians including MNDSGN, Toro Y Moi and keiyaA.
His monthly hosted radio show on dublab is a curatorial exercise called Footprints in the Dark. A two-hour exploration of a single black artist and a means for making one part of his research practice public. He has also guested on London’s NTS Radio and New York’s The Lot among others.