A number of thoughts went into my mind as I was listening to this, the fourth release from Low Leaf. UNEARTHly could not be a more appropriate title for this, especially considering the musical path she has gone on since the release of 2011’s Chrysalis EP (my review of which can be read by clicking here). If Chrysalis was the start of her blossoming/opening up to the world she has entered, it showed her as an incredible musical talent, both on instruments and vocally. She seems to be an explorer and is willing to test the limits on the world around her, which has allowed Low Leaf to experiment with the limitations she has placed on this journey. In descriptions of her music, she often talks about coming from somewhere and adding a bit of trippy philosophy about getting a chance to know herself and perhaps not allowing what she has learned to interrupt her creativity. If UNEARTHly is meant to describe her as being different, a foreign being or entity from another city/state/country/continent/universe/planet, then she has very much moved out of this world and and is happy and content with being left of center.
Lofty review intros aside, while Low Leaf could easily be creating some of today’s top pop and soul hits with the type of groove and not-so-unearthly funk, she has chosen not to, at least for now, as if to say “I don’t think the world is ready for this”, or at least stating in her songs that the world has to come to her first. As I first started listening to this EP, my first thoughts about the first three songs were “are these really songs?” They each sound like intros, interludes, or segments in need of songs with fuller structures. I would go back to them later, but at first I had felt the EP truly began with “Makeshift Altar”, which sounds like a song to listen to while watching the sun rise, that kind of early morning vibe. She is still in tube with the harp, but there’s a bit more digital manipulation with the instrument so that alone with proper playing, she’ll run it through effects or stutter the sound. “Rozey Sawrose” (“rosey sorrows”?) may come off like an oxymoron in the title, but musically it sounds very happy, festive, and expressive, as if someone was listening to the jazz band Hiroshima and decided to give them a unique vocal perspective. She drops verses in “yUdUyU”, sounding like a mixture of Ladybug Mecca (of Digital Planets) and Prince circa 1985/1986. “Hawkwizdom”, on the other hand, has her entering a very nice Soulquarians vibe, as if she found herself within the essence of Erykah Badu, extracted some of D’Angelo’s power, and found herself shining in her own afterflow. In fact, as I’m listening to this track that has the kind of flavor deep Madlib/Yesterdays New Quintet/Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm fans will appreciate, I found myself wanting to smoke some wicked hashish, and I don’t even smoke. It’s that intense, and it made me realize this. While I can imagine her making mighty fine radio-friendly hits, there is still that other side of Low Leaf that probably prefers extending her hand to the outer edge, only for her willing to fall and transcribing her emotions along the way. “Cosmic Energy*” has her adding a slight rock vibe with what sounds like a distorted Fender Rhodes, and I found myself comparing her to Nikka Costa or Res a bit, but realizing this music could/can only come from one person.
The last two songs on the EP come off as brief interludes/intros as well, but “Hidden Rainforest Supply” could easily be recrafted into a fully developed track, if she hasn’t done so already. So could “FujAkAkA”.
It’s weird. I respect Low Leaf’s music enough to allow myself to play armchair critic and say yes, this lady is fully capable of creating anything and everything she wants to create. The musical landscape is in need of someone like her, but by even saying that, it’s my way of wanting her to decorate the pop world with that level of talent. However, I also feel that the mainstream would eat her talents alive and turn her into someone she doesn’t want to be. Then again, the artist Low Leaf wants to be is somewhere between Georgia Anne Muldrow and Sun Ra, and I love that. I want that eccentric and eclectic side to keep coming, and I want to benefit from anything and everything she creates. Then again, she could easily pull a Sugar Ray and say “I’ll be this person to create hits, but I will always remain Low Leaf to satisfy my muse.” I think why I want her to stick to the accessible is because I would love for her to gain more attention, and yes, that does mean I want her to get attention for everything she does. Everything she does, however, isn’t going to please those who only accept the accessible, and UNEARTHly is far from being formulaic. The twists and turns in her sounds thrill me, and if she has created a mothership for herself, I want on, at least for awhile. Continue to take me on your journey.