MAXIMILLION BROWN | 2016
“Blastoma is a type of cancer which is normally found in children,” Ngaiire says in a recent interview in The Guardian. The 32-year-old Papua New guinea-born future soul singer, has named her sophomore album after her childhood disease in a hope that “it will be an inspiration to other people to dig deep.” Featuring a mere nine tracks, Blastoma has no filler, and true to the album’s motivations, each songs hit hard and leave a lasting impact with each play through.
From the first track ‘Anchor’, Ngaiire’s supreme ability to blend timeless soulful tones, and future beats is evident. The minimal track shows that despite the electronic rhythms, the music is still organic and natural, due to Ngaiire’s effortless vocals.
Lead single from last year, ‘Once’ should be familiar to listeners, as it’s the Megan Washington and Paul Mac song that thrust Ngaiire into the spotlight, both locally and worldwide. The minimal beats again strike the balance between non-existent and over-crowded arrangement, allowing enough room for Ngairre’s vocals to run smoothly over the pulsing beat.
Despite only being nine tracks, the album offers plenty of musical and contextual contrast. ‘Cruel’ offers an intimate look at Ngaiire’s heartbreak, with the dark track offering one of the highlights of the record. With the male vocal running beneath, and also indisposed with Ngaiire’s soul, the pulsating bass is punctuated by ethereal synth melodies, highlighting the fragility of relationships. The track never feels rushed, and defines the patience that Ngaiire has on every song of Blastoma.
Not without its danceable beats, ‘House On A Rock’ has brash and aggressive synths, that is punctuated by swagger-filled lyrics from Ngaiire. The song eventually explodes in a euphoria-filled chorus, giving the listener an eruption of soulful colour, further cementing Ngaiire as Australia’s queen of neo-soul.
‘I Can’t Hear God Anymore’ again cuts deeper into Ngaiire’s heartbreak, with a much lighter synth beat driving the emotion in this tune. Softly singing over the equally smooth pulse, Ngaiire builds to deliver “I can’t hear God anymore ever since you left; he don’t come round here no more, he just went away,” with soulful and heart-wrenching vocal power. The track showcases Ngaiire’s tone to the fullest, before the album ends on the most raw track, ‘Fall Into My Arms’. Channelling gospel influences with beautiful harmonies and a powerfully simple accompaniment from the piano, the track strips away electronic backing, and leaves Ngaiire at her most vulnerable. Showing masterful control of her range, “I’ll be here when you decide, when you want to fall into my arms”, is delivered in increasingly moving phrases. Howling all over her vocal register, the track reminds us that we are listening to a soul singer, one who has constructed one of the most sonically and emotionally intense records of 2016.
From ‘Anchor’s first notes to the lasting vocal impressions of ‘Fall Into My Arms’, Ngaiire’s sophomore effort is all killer and not a single shred of filler, further pioneering the neo-soul sound, blending the old with the new in musical perfection.