Sega Bodega – Romeo
It’s strange to think that Sega Bodega released his debut album Salvador just last year. The Irish producer has otherwise made a name for himself, mostly behind the scenes sculpting the sonic aesthetic for artists like UK rapper Shygirl. For her Bodega would pull together influences from house, techno, Eurodance and bass music to craft to form propulsive beat backdrops informed by queer club culture. It was a distilled, more pop friendly version of his early and elusive solo work, which up until Salvador had taken shape as aggressive and often amorphous formulations of his influences, locating Bodega at the latter end of the guard of artists whose disruptive instincts gave rise to the ‘post-club’ sub-genre. Starting with Salvador, Bodega began the journey of refining his artistry from subversive agitator toward avant-pop singer-songwriter, making room in the swirling chaos of his music for a new instrument; his voice. His sophomore solo album, Romeo, evolves from the space he found on his debut, filtering the Sega Bodega template into a collection that oscillates between garage, grime and hyperpop as the most distinctive he’s sounded to date.
Romeo is grounded by a singular concept; the album traces the imagined love story between Bodega and Luci, a mythological girlfriend figure whose body is made up entirely of light. Writing from the point of view as a mortal condemned to loving a fantastical creature, Bodega crafts a contemporary fairytale that unfolds by way of deftly human storytelling elevated by ethereal and futuristic electronic production. This is Romeo’s most striking quality. The album touches on classic themes and love tropes, but by framing his narrative in the realm of make-believe, Bodega finds a way to mesh his futurism with this subject matter in a way that breathes new life into the lexicon. I Need Nothing From You is a classic love ballad that’s relatable in its simplicity, but sung with distinct emotional conviction and then filtered through some sort of extraterrestrial vacuum. Um Um, an ode to Bodega’s late friend and producer SOPHIE, works similarly against a chorus of pitched acapella samples that interpolate the sort of rubberised synth sounds synonymous with SOPHIE. This choir of voices is an example of many organic accents on the record, like the piano riff of I Need Nothing From You or the utterances that Bodega programmes into patterns across Romeo. These flutter like a heartbeat beneath the capillaries of Bodega’s more abstract electronic ambitions, an emotional soul that courses through the album.
These ballads are balanced with more club ready tracks. Effeminacy subverts the expectations of its title with decaying, bass heavy trap while the giddy All Your Friends Think I’m Too Young For You is shimmering, chromatic hyperpop. Naturopathe (with Charlotte Gainsbourg) is bass driven micro-house. Cicada (featuring Arca) meanwhile takes the shape of humid mutant bossa-nova. Luci closes Romeo with storming kuduro and cinematic passages of speed shifted vocals. Romeo is held together, albeit loosely, by Bodega’s supernatural fantasy. This imagined narrative is never enforced directly in the lyrics of his songs. Rather, it exists in the way Romeo has been presented. The artwork surrounding the album is positively evocative, picturing Bodega in various domestic scenarios accompanied by Luci, her form burning entirely from white light on the page. Traversing his influences and presenting us with the most evolved he has sounded, Romeo is a stunning turn from an artist who is no doubt just getting started.
Listen to I Need Nothing From You from Romeo below.
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