Just from the brief opening salvo, a shimmering blend of soulful sounds, ambient indie cool and what might be whoops of joy, you can tell that this album is going to be an intriguing and unconventional beast. But that is what we want isn’t it? We want music to entertain and challenge in equal measure. We want something which has the reassurance of the familiar whilst using those comfort zones to push musical boundaries even further. We want music which sounds like the here and now but which also has the ability to see into the future. We are not asking for much, are we?
But if you are greedy enough to be looking for music which can tick all of those boxes (and a few more besides) then read on.
In some quarters the term Magnolia is synonymous with the idea of conformity, of neutrality, of the every day, but this album is anything but.
Cosima Olu is an expert at taking the sonic tropes of soul and jazz, with no small amount of pop accessibility and blending them with ambient dance grooves and indie moves. She creates music which sits on the fringes of the soul sound but which wanders into so many neighbouring, not to mention further-flung, musical territories too.
The title track itself is the perfect place to start. Olu’s gorgeous and urgent voice sitting central to the whole song but used sparingly as hazy dream-pop washes and ambient cinematics gently ebb and flow before anthemic drums and chiming percussion, sumptuous banks of angelic harmonies and meandering, chaotic brass proclamations take the song home. All of which takes just over a minute and a half to resolve.
There are understated and conversational moments of future soul with Dear C, more conventional but no less original jazz with Pappa, one of two songs which sees her aided and abetted by Oscar Johansson, and even modern Latin-jazz meets sixties soul-pop on Over and Out.
And then there are songs such as Pxx, and I’ll defy anyone to be able to describe it in a neat soundbite. Isn’t that the way with the most exciting music?
We live in a world where so much of the music industry is happy enough to look back, to retread profitable paths by reworking successful sounds, a world of tributes acts and covers bands, of minor reinvention and the riding of coattails. Cosima Olu is the antithesis of all such notions and Magnolia is perhaps her sonic vision of the future, or at least one possible vision and. An utterly gorgeous one at that.
Cosima Olu – Magnolia is available on digital and vinyl from November 20, 2020.
In some quarters the term Magnolia is synonymous with the idea of conformity, neutrality, and the every day, but this album is anything but.