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Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting

  • Jamie Woon
  • Dance & ElectronicaSoul
  • Out now
  • Polydor
reviewed by
Soraya Morayef
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Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting

Although his debut album Mirrorwriting has barely
made a bleep on the radar of European and US charts, 28-year-old singer Jamie
Woon has created a lot of hype; mainly from music critics, for his sharp sound
that dithers somewhere between dupstep, soul and commercial pop.

The son of a Malaysian Chinese father and
Celtic singer Mae McKenna, who apparently sang back-up for Michael Jackson,
among other major artists, Woon apparently went to the same school as Amy
Winehouse and has widely been compared to fellow Brit James Blake because of their liberal use of silence and synthesizers in their music.

That being said, Woon is in a category of
his own. Too easy on the beats to earn the respect of hardcore dubstep fans and
too heavy on the melancholic melodies to earn the street cred of urban soul,
Woon’s biggest asset is his voice, which he uses like an instrument; often
understated and accompanied by an acoustic guitar, and later on added to synths
and computer-generated arrangements.

It’s quite a feat that this 28-year-old has
produced his own album; but then again he did have the help of Burial, the
‘godfather of dubstep’ as some critics describe him. Burial and Woon first
collaborated on his haunting debut single ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ in 2007. It took
four years for Woon to follow up with the debut album Mirrorwriting, and disappointingly the
single isn’t included, but gems like ‘Night Air’ and ‘Middle’ are.

‘Night Air’ is a beautiful track, produced
by Burial and tightly arranged with choral-like backing vocals that evoke the
melancholic night atmosphere that he softly sings of. On the other hand ‘Lady
Luck’ teeters closer to r&b than any other track on the album, sounding
eerily close to something Terence Trent D’arby would have sung in the early
nineties. Still, Woon’s layering of vocals and beats works well here.

‘Middle’ is another highlight on the album,
using a heavier rhythm with call-and-response vocals that make it both a
charming and enchanting song. This charm may be Woon’s downfall. The music is a
tad too pretty to place him on par with James Blake or the XX, and his vocals often
come dangerously close to the high-pitched warbling of Darren Hayes of the 90s
band Savage Garden.

The rest of the songs, such as ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘Gravity’,
drift in and out of delicate melancholy. The YouTube version of ‘Spirits’ is an
exciting version, where Woon demonstrates how he layers his own vocals
till the songs crescendos into a beautiful piece that could easily be the
product of a full-blown band, not just one man and his synthesisers.

Mirrorwriting is the kind of album you need to listen to on quality
headphones to appreciate its delicacy, evocativeness and depth. It’s probably
not going to be a chart-topper; Woon’s ambivalence between soul, r&b, pop
and dupstep will probably distance hardcore fans of these genres. Still, it is
an enjoyable listen that could easily be played in the background for a chilled
house party. 

Like This? Try

James Blake, Burial, The XX

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