Musowi - Of Compassion (Leaving Records, 2021)
Monica Windom brings her absolute A game to this 3 tracker as we blissfully meander through some of the most soaring and emotionally charged contemporary soul music you will have the pleasure of listening to.
In this day and age, there is so much music to draw from and find inspiration in, and in many cases its how artists are able to interpret what they know and combine it into what they feel that represents the true magic. Soul music in many ways has continually served as a counterpoint to so many important developments in music over the past 70 or so years, with its haunting and raw vocal delivery over subtle and emotional grooves still hitting hard to this very day, with the genre acting as an important evolution in African American music. Even as time passed and other genres perhaps overtook its delectable undercurrents, Soul remained very much in the imagination, with a renaissance of sorts occurring with the Modern Soul genre that popped up around the late 70s and early 80s, that bought the genre into a new light as a gorgeous top layer above a mixture of Disco and Funk laden beats. As we moved through the 80s, the genre was electrified with a plethora of slowed down jams and high tempo steppers moving Soul into new and bountiful territories, with genres like UK Street Soul, Neo Soul and many others seeing the light of day as new generations embarked on their own journeys of understanding and innovation. The 90s oversaw so many cross-pollinations occur with Soul and other genres, and it was perhaps the period that had the most influence on the contemporary soundscape, which remains awash with so many exciting artists who try their hand at the modern take on a genre that has birthed so much. Like with many other forms of music, those who tap into a long established genre but bring an enormity of outside features into their musical flow remain some of the shining lights of any generation, and in a overly competitive and interconnected space like the present day, to be bold is to carve out a singular voice amongst the crowd. Increasingly within the Soul umbrella, we are seeing some beautifully creative voices and releases come forth, where artists look to concern themselves with the dynamics of flow and the intricacies that make tracks feel deep and profound. Its simply a continuation of a tradition that has swirled around Soul for decades now, and one that feels very much like it will not run out of steam, with so many places around the world now ensnared in the feeling of contemporary Soul and all it can offer to us. Not just merely a space for guitars, organs and voices, but a space where Hip Hop merges with Neo Soul, where R'n'B slides alongside Funk and Jazz, where the feeling is one of a series of melting pots rather than singular visions about what it could all represent. For us listeners, its a golden era for sure, as everywhere we look we see some superb artists come to light who give over to us tracks that bring back memories of so many important evolutions in music's history, but also provide us with a view forward into the now and the future, pointing the way to new eras of musical understanding and feeling. We remain at the cutting edge, where inventiveness lasts long in the memory within a sea of sultry emotive vocals, gorgeous key playing, and swinging beat structures, a combination that always serves us in our most poignant moments, where escapism and being surrounded by people feel both like viable options.
For a good while now, songwriter Monica Windom has been serving up all of these feels and more, with her bountiful vocal work always accompanied by something very special indeed. Originally from Cincinnati but now living in LA, Windom has channelled her musical ambitions through the Muwosi name for the past 4 or so years, and when listening to her music the immediate thing to capture the imagination is her vocal work, which acts as a binding agent for all the excellence that comes forth from the instrumentals underneath. Going back through her works, there's an incredible range of genres on display, a feature which serves to showcase Windom as an artist who has a significant amount to say in terms of ambition but also shows us just how her vision works, and as a means to push things forward in regards to her sound its a game changer. We serve through incredibly well conceived songs that sing so brightly, channelling their way into the soul as our life becomes a little bit richer as a result, our soul lifted higher and higher by her words and mesmerising vocal work, with the music underneath propping both up with a simmering incisiveness that is so hard not to groove along to. We get invited into a world that is meticulously constructed, with Windom more than happy to show us around to all these differing spaces going on, as we serve from contemporary R'n'B to Hip Hop, Neo Soul to Indie and even Jungle, and as a body of work it only fuels the feeling that Windom is an artist to firmly keep an eye on. Her works, as mentioned already, are an incredible whirlwind of styles and feels, starting off with the stomping feels of 'Charming', that swirls along atop a 2 step kinda beat, with all manner of gorgeous undertones, with the track arriving in 2017; the uptempo punk-indie-electro feel of the rolling 'Krypton' track, which arrived in 2017 also; the intricate feel and wondrous tone of the sublime 'Love Is An Action', which saw Windom move in a more indie direction, which arrived in 2019; the big scale and thundering feels of the jungle themed 'Don't Listen To Me' cut, which could have been flung from the mid 90s to this point in time, with the track arriving last year; and finally, the softly unravelling tones of the wonderful 'Friendly Reminder' track, which arrived last year also. In all, Windom has constructed a beautiful world for us to immerse ourselves into, where the flows of her voice wind their way around a series of intelligently made and creatively inspiring rhythms and beats that always do more than they say on the tin. Each track feels bound within the structure of a certain genre but always finds the space to grow, to be more than what you expect, as delightful instrumentalism keeps coming our way as time passes, with everything held together by Windom's transfixing vocal work. Her voice could move mountains, its range moving from the spoken word to the utterly soaring, a heavenly flow that transcends mortal plains and kisses the skies above with its passion and meaning, a delivery that gives over so much as to remind us all of what we need in life. Its contemporary music at its very finest, with Soul attached to it all with a capital S, and as we finish listening to her tracks we just want to dive right back in and experience it all over again. If you haven't had the chance yet, seriously go and check out her works, you won't be disappointed.
And now we arrive at her latest effort, the three tracker EP 'Of Compassion', which lands on the ever impressive LA imprint Leaving Records. On this one, Windom expands upon her previous works and channels it all into a longer listening experience, with the tones moving vividly from Hip Hop through to choppy contemporary Soul and back again, and the results are pretty damn spectacular. Windom's voice as always leads the way through it all, meandering around the gorgeous glassy chords with all the meaning in the world, as beautiful harmonies permeate through to add weight to the compositions, with her directional sense of how these tracks evolve doing much to inspire. Even though the track lengths are short, there is so much to look at, to get to know, to use as fuel for the heart, with repeat listens often necessary to feel the full power of everything that goes on within the layers. Heartfelt, sincere but also endlessly playful, Windom's sound remains as strong and elastic as ever, and from this point you feel like she could achieve absolutely anything. So, with that sentiment, lets dive right into this wonderful piece of music....
We kick things off with ‘Frozen Blueberries’, with the opening salvo particularly delicious to the ears. The glassy Rhodes chords lovingly lay themselves over a beautifully sultry beat, the two elements playfully dancing around each other as we swim within the middling moments they both share. This intro salvo leads directly into the vocals, which soar ever so slightly above the melodics underneath, occupying a particularly satisfying frequency that mines at the soul, delicately caressing our sensibilities as we stare into the eyes of the one we love. The adoration doubles up as backing vocals add weight to proceedings, with flutterings of keys meandering in the backdrop that only further our investment, with the chorus that arrives soon after something to behold in its scale and emotiveness. The swing back into the verse afterwards is beautifully considered, with the weight of the keys and drums still doing the business, and after one final movement through the chorus, we say good bye to a short but completely engrossing piece of music. Up next comes ‘A Song For Someone’, and this one begins with the rhythmically engaging chordal sequence moving within the lightest of drumming patterns, but its the vocals that take the lead on top. The resulting groove is so enticing, as if its gesturing to us with its finger to come in and look around, and as the hats and cymbals move into view we see the densities increase significantly, as all manner of gorgeous melodies and harmonies come into the mix, and we cannot get enough of it. The climax then arrives as we swerve back into the initial progression, which remains as blended and intriguing as ever, before once again we fade out, with memories and good vibrations left intact. A beautiful saunter, this one.
To wrap things up, we have ‘Something To Eat’, and this one begins with the fullness of the vocals, drums and keys to get us going. The tone of the track remains somewhere similar to the previous two efforts, but the narrative being portrayed to us is very much in contrast to the love songs and heart warming feels found before, with the lyrics focusing on the man in the street who’s hungry and hypocrisies associated with the image of wealth and the reality. The relationship between the vocals and the Ever sliding chords is particularly effective here, with plenty of variety in relation to speed and depth, with a particularly dense segment coming in around the 1 minute mark that does much to craft narrative feel. The track then keeps it quite loose from here on out, with plenty of wonderful touches added into the mix that keep the brain very much occupied as time passes by, and like that we depart from this gorgeous piece of music - a little snapshot, but something that contains an excellent amount of depth as to keep coming back for your fill of goodness and hope when you need it the most.
There's a distinctive feeling that remains with us as we walk away from this record, and that is one of attachment, of adoration, and indeed, of compassion. Windom has always been able to display her dynamism when crafting tracks and conceiving vocal lines, but on this record she injects concept very much into the interweaving patterns, her words moving from love stories to people on the street, with both lines of inquiry delivered with equal levels of meaning and passion. We feel every word being spoken, we hear every note and every beat, an experience that wraps us up and takes us by the hand as we saunter through a hazy vision of a path well trodden that presents to us so many things to feel about. There is much to unpack here and get to know, such is Windom's ability to serve between genres and styles that the end product is a beautiful hybrid of features and feels, its uniqueness standing strong as a leading light for many to feel inspired by and connected to. A beautiful little record, and one that will for sure be featuring on our best of the year list. Sublime from start to finish.
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