A few entries ago, I wrote about a phenomenon I called “icy R&B“. It’s a condition where electronic music is combined with the melodies and rhythmic structures of R&B. lately it’s become popular, especially outside of the U.S. where forms of R&B still have an impact on popular dance and club music. Icy R&B is something more than downtempo, yet lacks the overall appeal of pop and club focused dance music.
Nowhere is this mashup more prevalent than in Germany, a long time hotbed of electronic and experimental music. Berlin is home to Project Mooncircle, a creative collective and record label that bills itself as a source for left of field dance music.
One thing that many of the artist on Project Mooncircle have in common is their use of R&B as an accent to electronic music. Two of them stick out in particular: Submerse and Groeni. Groeni is basically Alexander Green a musician/producer, who often works with two other of musicians from Wellington, New Zealand.
Groeni offers no insights to New Zealand’s electronic music scene, choosing instead to adapt a more European approach to “icy R&B”. It might be a stretch to call any on the music on the EP Hewn R&B, but it uses melodies and harmonies that are closer to soul and pop than any vocals you might hear in any electronic dance music.
Hewn is not likely to inspire much dancing either, but it does have a chill vibe to it that is analogous to a robot’s interpretation of The Quiet Storm. The vocals themselves sound warm and organic against hip hop like beats.
One production convention that seems to weave through much of Hewn is the sound of water droplets as a kind of background percussive noise. It adds to the cool, yet organic feel of the music overall.
There are bits of Hewn at it’s most accessible that remind me of How To Dress Well or The Kite String Tangle, except that the lyrics are far more abstract with the closest thing to a pop song here “Pardons” sounding alternative by comparison. When new, Hewn must of suggested a great deal of potential. As this writing, that promise has yet to manifest itself as a widely promoted and distributed LP or whatever it’s digital equivalent might be.
Unfortunately Groeni’s music is almost impossible to come by through traditional means. There are triple the number of places to stream their music vs. buy it outright. The band offers various singles and EPs on the Project Mooncircle website.The almost non existent to low key marketing of the band insures that word of mouth or a recommendation from a streaming service is the most likely way new fans will be made. For now it seems awareness of this talented trio is likely to stay in the underground.