Available on: Hyperdub LP
Coloured perfectly for Hyperdub’s catalogue of recent years, Jessy Lanza’s debut album Pull My Hair Back is being discussed as a modern r ‘n’ b record, and there is indeed half a modern r’n’b album here in all kinds of stylistic execution. However, the other half of the album is pure song writing of the ’82-’86 boogie era.
Lanza’s interview with The Quietus gives a fascinating insight into her influences, ranging from Def Wave and Heatmakerz to SWV and Melba Moore (a legend who even drops in to compliment/spam her in the comments). The range shows, with Pull My Hair Back seemingly built from Lanza’s jazz tuition up, first drawing upon ’80s electronic funk and soul, then sculpting it into modern club music and ballads. Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys co-produces, deftly representing newer palettes while updating vintage techniques.
Multiple ideas are covered here, be it the shuffle of ‘Kathy Lee’ as pure late ’90s club bounce, or ‘Fuck Diamond’’s all-too-brief fling with deep, clap-driven electro. ‘5785021’ and ‘Pull My Hair Back’ both employ woozy, trappy rhythms to play with meter and space, but ‘Keep Moving’ goes full on Patrice Rushen-meets-Scritti Politti. ‘As If’ is modern half-time r ‘n’ b with Mark Bell-like synths arpeggiating wildly, while ‘Against The Wall’ climaxes in Vangelis FM horns and strings over Prince-like rim shots.
Lanza’s voice throughout is high and airy, shrouded in creative delays and short room reverbs, which are completely complimentary but unfortunately tend to blur out the lyrics and their conviction. There is also something to be said in that, while Pull My Hair Back has surprises in every track – the sub bass of ‘5785021’, the fanfare of ‘Against The Wall’, the acid and samples in ‘Fuck Diamond’ and many other moments – these bristle around a warm centre found throughout. It would be interesting, in the future, to hear tracks built on these kinds of details; sparser arrangements with Lanza’s voice more prominent in the mix like finale ‘Strange Emotion’.
But there is plenty of time for that kind of exploration. With Pull My Hair Back Lanza proves that she, like her influence Patrice Rushen in particular, is able to craft strong, clever pop songs that take from her discipline and influences and project forwards. It makes for an excellent debut in whatever style you want to call it.