Tama Gucci – Almost Blue
Image: Sinderlyn Records
New York’s Tama Gucci has been slowly shifting the expectations of both R&B and electronic music with his incomparable style. Fusing the tropes of the two genres by way of heartfelt, tender songwriting and razor sharp avant electronic beats, the singer-songwriter and producer has arrived at a unique intersection between pop and R&B grounded in his brand of futurism. Hailing from Miami and cutting his teeth on the city’s burgeoning underground queer scene before shifting to The Big Apple, Gucci’s sound draws from the motifs of Miami bass and his own preoccupation with jungle and breakbeats. He dances between Y2k nostalgia and cyber age futurism (his name is Tama Gucci, for God’s sake) in a way that locates his sound equally as much in the past as it does the future. On Almost Blue, his latest EP released on Sinderlyn, both these influences inform the backdrop for his raspy, breathless R&B poetry on a collection of tracks that key in into the anxieties of love and phases of transition in the contemporary world.
There’s a deft romanticism to Almost Blue that is most palpable by way of Tama Gucci’s melody and lyrics. Thematically, the EP focuses on the human experiences of love and sex. Lyrically, Tama Gucci keeps things simple. The language is simple, favouring hooks and melodic pattern over implication or metaphoric diatribes. There’s little room to hide behind the pining “Would you die for me / Because I would die for you” of Show Me, or the millennial poetry “No more fighting… let’s just fuck all night” of Bedroom. The latter is a particularly strong moment, with Tama Gucci sighing out a sort of scuzzy serenade over a kinetic breakbeat accented with robot sex sounds and electronic cowbells in the style of I Wanna Dance WIth Somebody. But it’s the track’s final act, layering Tama Gucci’s voice atop itself and a soft drone note, that puts a lot of Almost Blue into perspective. By juxtaposing the human-to-a-fault quality of his subject matter and lyrics with increasingly more computerised sounds, Tama Gucci is attempting to code the romance album for the virtual age where intimacy is no longer reliant on being physically present and where human connection can last as long as it takes to swipe left. While this juxtaposition is less effectual on tracks like Sweater, where it is damped by worn out romance tropes like swelling strings and the image of Tama Gucci wearing his heart on his lover’s sweater, when it lands it works. This is the case for tracks like Challenge or Put It In Drive, where Tama Gucci performs his lyrics with the same sort of earnestness as Marvin Gaye or D’Angelo. Challenge’s “I feel so cute / Baby I’m in the mood / And I’m feeling you / Baby, come bust a move” is as great of a romance lyric as you might get in the post-Tinder world, while the breathless moans of “Baby, wait for me” on Put It In Drive speak toward the anxiety of moving too quickly by placing its lethargic sense of longing against a backdrop of cyber bleeps and hyper futuristic percussion.
That anxiety of things moving at breakneck speed while you lag behind is at the crux of Almost Blue. It’s a rumination of sorts on the fear of being behind where one would want to be in love, compounded by the rapid pace of the world’s evolution. It’s a record about being almost there, about being almost at the same point as everyone else. But then, with the unstoppable speed at which technology and the digital world begin to consume our reality it seems Tama Gucci is asking if he will ever get there. But perhaps getting there is no longer the point; perhaps the point is to exist in the almost, because when everything is moving at hyperspeed it’s the almost that feels most like the present.
Listen to Challenge from Almost Blue below.
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