‘Immediately your mind forgets it’s a track by a new artist.’
Intro to Nii:
Originally hailing from North West London, Leeds based 22-year-old singer-songwriter Nii may be relatively young, but his tracks speak of experience much greater than this would suggest. Staying ever-true to his own ethos of being completely honest, his sound is one that encompasses personally reflective moments and sets them in an unexpectedly upbeat way. Read more at:
Behind the Music: Interview with Nii
Featured Track: Midnight in Tokyo
Like a perfect sunset at the end of a summer’s day, the opening guitar lines contained within the first few
seconds of ‘Midnight in Tokyo’ fill you with blissful contentment. Built on arpeggios, these lightly driving, echo affected lines sound accomplished and sophisticated. It’s a wonderful start and immediately your mind forgets it’s a track by a new artist. Taking our mind even further away from this, the initial lyrics of ‘Can you hear my heart crying?’ are set in an accomplished manner and unapologetically welcome us into this highly reflective track. At only a few seconds in, you just know it’s going to be an incredibly strong track.
Reaching the initial verse, the accompanying textures subtly develop and while the opening line is highly apparent, its sparse use – placed at roughly two bar intervals – means it never becomes too much. Given that Nii is indeed a new artist – a point which I make no apology for mentioning again – it would be easy for him to think ‘I love that idea, I’m going to keep using it.’ However, like the sound of this very idea, the decision to not demonstrates musical sophistication beyond his experience. Similarly, the same can be said for the percussive elements which centred around only clave, shaker and kick-drum make for sparse, yet highly distinctive sound. However, the sophistication within the track doesn’t just lie within the instrumentation.
In keeping with the underlying textures, Nii’s smooth, silky vocal oozes coolness. It’s warm, but has a point to make and projected in a relaxing, but subtly assertive way, the highly reflective lyrics shine through effortlessly. Additionally the lack of distraction within the accompaniment allows for the message to be clear throughout and with selective uses of reverb and multi-tracking, emphasis is brought to all the right places.
Moving through the track, the opening ideas, and those set out in the verse continue to play a key role in the overall nature of the track. However, while this is very much the case, the rhythmic centre shifts on reaching the chorus. Here, the latin style influences heard previously combine with what can be considered a more ‘regular sound’ and in doing so the track begins to take off into a slightly different direction. However, while you may think – given how much I loved the sparseness – that I’m about to say that this change is a shame, you would be very wrong.
In fact, the seamless nature in which this change occurs means that with each return it’s not seen – or should I say heard – as a departure at all. Instead, what it is, is a masterclass in how to create perfect ebb and flow in a track. Shifting gear in terms of tempo, and indeed style, the track lifts and becomes filled with perfectly fused influences, lush sounding guitar lines and increasingly stylish vocals. If this is what Midnight in Tokyo is like, I want to go right now.