tue 10/12/2019

CD: Maya Jane Coles - Comfort | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Maya Jane Coles - Comfort

CD: Maya Jane Coles - Comfort

Is there a comfort in this album's strangeness?

The strangeness of Comfort

The part-Japanese Brit Maya Jane Coles displays elaborate asymmetric hair, interesting piercings and enormous tattoos in her moody photoshoots, makes sounds that are uniformly smooth and high-gloss, and has a sonic palette that takes in populist trance, chillout and straight-up pop music as well as more nerd-cred underground sounds. And in an era of techno that's been dominated by Berlin-centric cosmopolitanisms – by sophisticated internationalist crowds with creative haircuts and intricately-knotted scarves as well as sometimes tediously tasteful musical minimalism – it'd be very easy to dismiss her releases as facile, if narcotic, mood music.

A casual listener could certainly hear this album and think it no more than a nicely-designed provider of the Comfort it promises. Indeed, there is every chance that it will end up soundtracking cafes and boutiques from here to Kuala Lumpur over the next couple of years. But it deserves more appreciation than that. Slough off the tedious crypto-macho assumption that electronic music must be raw, rugged and street or otherwise flaunt its dangerousness to have creative value, and you may discover that the comforts this record offers are very real: rather than letting it float by, enter into it as an active listener and it starts to feel worth inhabiting.

Almost entirely running at or below the very slowest tempo threshold of house music, sometimes dipping into Massive Attack-like trip-hop territory, with a lushness that suggests the upmarket pop productions of William Orbit and full of guest vocals, it constantly offers a sense of being in a safe place without denying the darkness of the world outside. Lyrically, themes of belonging, trust and sanctuary keep coming, but it doesn't feel naïve: it feels like it places hard-won value on those things and is asking if you do too. As suited to headphones on a damp morning as it is to a club on a sultry summer's night, it's an album that gives back what you put into it, and then some.

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