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Erika de Casier - Sensational Music Album Reviews

Erika de Casier - Sensational Music Album Reviews
Though heavily inspired by ’90s and ’00s R&B, the Portugal-born, Danish musician grows into a quietly commanding presence of her own on her second album.

Erika de Casier found an escape in pop music when she was growing up. Born in Portugal to a Belgian mother and Cape Verdean father, she moved at the age of 10 to the tiny Danish village of Ribe, where she and her brother were some of the only mixed-race kids in school. Music became not just a refuge but a mirror: “MTV was the only place where I saw other Black people,” she would later recall. In high school, de Casier discovered the local library’s music section, checking out CDs by artists like Erykah Badu, N.E.R.D., and Destiny’s Child and playing them obsessively. After graduating, as de Casier taught herself music production in her bedroom, she learned to sing in a whisper, to avoid disturbing her flatmates.

De Casier is not the first singer to tiptoe into her preferred vocal register via the exigencies of cohabitation. But where Romy Madley-Croft’s tone on the xx’s debut album telegraphed a painful shyness, de Casier has put her breathy purr to different ends: seductive, playful, and sneakily powerful. It requires listeners to lean in and pay attention. That’s the effect that de Casier has on Sensational, her second solo album. Nestled within a bed of the featheriest R&B imaginable, she is a quietly commanding presence with a few tricks up her sleeve.

De Casier’s voice rarely rises above a hush on Sensational, and neither does the music. The album isn’t an expressly retro affair, but, like her 2019 debut, Essentials, it’s heavily inspired by ’90s and ’00s R&B. Sade’s Love Deluxe and Lovers Rock are obvious touchstones, along with Brandy’s Never Say Never and Craig David’s Born to Do It. Working with her frequent co-producer Natal Zaks (aka DJ Central, of Aarhus, Denmark’s Regelbau collective), de Casier employs the hallmarks of the era’s production: sparkling acoustic guitar, bone-dry shakers and rimshots, and, beneath it all, voluptuous sub-bass that mimics the wooziness of desire. She revels in the plasticity of synthesized woodwinds and sampled strings, and the high-gloss timbres of Café del Mar-style chillout, sticky as suntan oil. Occasionally, birdsong is faintly audible, giving the album the feel of an R&B holodeck.

There’s something almost vaporwave-like about the music’s hyperrealism, yet the record’s palette is also overwhelmingly tactile, full of sumptuous textures—plucked harp, brushed chimes—that emphasize the friction of contact, in the same way that the closeness of de Casier’s voice suggests the warmth of breath on skin. Lyrically, however, Sensational is rarely an explicit silk-sheets soundtrack. Instead, it’s something more subtle and often more interesting, full of the scenarios that play out in a racing mind late at night. De Casier scolds herself for being unable to rein in her worst impulses, revels in the glow of fresh infatuation, and tells off a lover who’s fool enough to leave her. Often, the men in her songs sound like real jerks. In “Polite,” her date is rude to the waiter; in “All You Talk About,” her clueless beau is obsessed with Versace and Fendi. “When you gonna see I’m bored outta my mind, babe/Put your hands on me,” she pleads. Worst of all might be the know-it-all cad in the languid “Insult Me,” a mournful highlight of the album, who straight up ignores what she has to say. “You insult me man/You insult me man,” she sings, her voice dissolving into a mixture of sorrow and contempt. It’s hard to imagine a chorus more witheringly succinct.

These songs amount to a kind of therapy for de Casier, an opportunity to get the upper hand after the fact. Her easy sense of humor makes these imagined victories feel all the more triumphant. In “Drama,” she balances self-recriminations with double-entendre promises of FaceTime sex; in “Better Than That,” a song about moving on after a betrayal, she shrugs, “I already watched that TED Talk on how to let go.” Even in the absence of explicit punchlines, the grain of her voice and the rhythm of her delivery often have all the nuance of a great comic actor. Underscoring the lightness of her touch, she peppers the lyric sheet with emojis, which lends the act of reading along the voyeuristic thrill of poring through someone else’s chat history.

De Casier often gives the impression that she’s in conversation with the music of her upbringing: The tossed-off line, “You go on and on, and on and on,” makes fleeting reference to the Erykah Badu song; elsewhere, she borrows Snoop Dogg’s slightly nasal, sing-song delivery, breezily tapping g-funk’s laid-back vibe. Occasionally she’ll dip into American vernacular, picking up the accents of those singers and rappers she studied so closely as a teenager. It’s a reminder not just of the worldwide sway that American pop culture holds, but also of the way that Black American popular culture offers a sense of belonging to Black people who feel estranged in other countries, too.

“I think the experience of being isolated and having a lot of time for myself meant that creating became a way of dealing with all these emotions,” de Casier has said. But while Sensational is fiercely interior, it never suffers from the pitfalls of navel-gazing: It’s sexy, self-assured, spirited, fun. All those qualities come to the fore in “Busy,” a punchy, retro UK garage anthem about a woman who’s too driven to find time for a relationship. Invoking the bubbly, bump-and-flex vibes of vintage MJ Cole and Artful Dodger, it could be a 2-step counterpart to Marie Davidson’s “Work It.” Sensational might have benefited from a few more songs in this vein (especially since De Casier shines in clubbier contexts), but that’s a minor quibble. De Casier’s got a soft voice but a big personality, and even at its most muted, Sensational radiates charm.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Erika de Casier - Sensational Music Album Reviews Erika de Casier - Sensational Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, June 02, 2021 Rating: 5

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