There comes a point during most nights, from about 2 or 3 onwards, when the mood changes and things get a bit muddied up – the excitement of earlier has dulled and less desirable thoughts and feelings settle in its place. This emotional arc is at the heart of Rachel Alice Johnson’s debut EP, taking the listener from lust and exhilaration to confusion and pained longing in the space of four tracks. The ECA alumnus’ rich, sensual voice rolls over her lyrics in a throaty growl as convincingly as it does in a soaring swoon, lifting out of the murky bass lines only to drop back in for dramatic effect. In fact, it is Johnson’s rhythm section which holds fast the emotion and tone of the EP, filling the lower reaches of the songs with rumbling drums and easy, thick bass lines which tease in their absence, while acoustic and electric elements are sprinkled on top.
The EP introduces itself with the deep opening note of lead single ‘Lights On’, setting a sultry tone which is carried forward by tumbling drums and back-and-forth teasing from Johnson. When the bass eventually does return, it’s to accompany a crooned invitation to “Come over…I’ll do you right”, with other more explicit alternatives cropping up throughout the remainder of the jaunt. The playful tone continues over into ‘Hungry’, where fuzzy vocals and scratchy guitar work bring out the confused thrill of trying to figure someone out, physically and emotionally. The song climaxes as Johnson’s smoky tones swoop into shrieks and cymbals are put to good use, before rumbling to a halt in a growling mumble.
As the dust settles from the momentum of the first half of the EP, ‘Think Slow’ sets the mood for the remainder to something melancholic and drowsy, the confusion slipping into aching frustration. The languid rhythm and melody of this beautiful slow-burner is reminiscent of Natalie Imbruglia, coupled with the vocal tricks of Ultraviolence-era Lana Del Rey. ‘Pass the Time’ is an emotionally drained extension of this, its droning instrumental outro seeing the EP finally to sleep.
‘2AM’ is a look at sex and longing, and all the feelings associated with them when experienced in the hazy hours of the morning. It’s slinky and greedy and drowsily confused, and completely captivating throughout.