Album Review: Silent Nancy - Inside Voices
by Gardy Stein
What do you get when you mix a soulful US-singer, a versed Reggae-producer from Sweden, a whole lot of creativity, spice it up with bittersweet life experiences and let everything simmer on low heat for 18 months? A masterpiece called Inside Voices.
Silent Nancy, the creators behind this young cross-over project, consists of Katie Burke (Nashville), and Rocksteady Fred (Gothenburg), who met online just when the pandemic broke out. Their chemistry was instant and infectious, and the decision to work together quickly taken. A match made in... wherever the muses reside. Ever since they released the first singles of their collaboration (Tell Me What Side I'm On, Inside Voices and especially For Those Who Don't Know), I knew we were in for something good - and now the wait is over!
When you press play on track one, you'll get instantly blown away by Katie's unique, incredibly powerful voice (to the point of actual tears, if you feel this music as much as I do). It doesn't make much sense to try and explain the lyrics, which are immediate, raw in a good way, and will mean different things to different people, but the title hints at the content: For Those Who Don't Know. From the exotic instrumentation to the well-orchestrated break at 2:05, from the breathtaking harmonies to the tangible energy radiating from the whole composition, this song will have you in awe.
The fascination thus kindled will hold you in its grip until the last note has faded. Not all of the twelve tracks are strictly speaking Reggae, as such a limitation would have robbed us of some unexpected musical hybrids. Go Another Round is a prime example of Fred's clever fusion of diverse styles. The way he plays with samples and instruments, narrow conventions and multiple harmonies is extremely exciting and showers us with fresh impulses: remixed from a piece called The White Elephant by Sweden's Ska-band The Uplift, Different Love now sounds like a stumbling melange of Breakbeats, Christmas Carol and Bigband!
Title-track Inside Voices starts off with an oldschool jazzy Hip Hop-vibe, until the drum-roll pulls us in familiar, organic-sounding Reggae-waters. Again, it's Katie's timbre that makes the vision drafted by Fred's music come alive, easily skirting any expectations a riddim like that could have evoked. "I refuse to let you tell me how to use my voice!" Sweet detail: the laughter at the end.
While other tracks carry a hint of Scandinavian melancholy (chapeau to guitarist Erik Invarsson!), Chance On Love is pure joy. A bubbling Rocksteady explosion, the song addresses that exhilarating tentativeness before diving into a relationship with someone you feel attracted to.
Biddi Don, released in summer 2021, continues this flow and invites a next feature, introduced by the press release thus: "Silent Nancy has found fantastic artists to collaborate with, and Zoe Mazah from Germany is perhaps the most brilliant of these stars." Word! These two ladies taken together are the epitome of female empowerment, exuding an x-amount of confidence and vitality. "You got a voice, use it! You got a power, now choose it, show the world you always stand up for yourself and you don't give in." The way their voices and spirits harmonize, I wouldn't be surprised if they collaborated on more stuff in the future.
A different conversation unfolds between Katie and rapper Shaka the King in the subsequent Tell Me What Side I'm On, discussing the difficult question of right and wrong to the backdrop of another fluid blend, this time of Hip Hop, Soul and Reggae.
Dipping into Jazz again, Sly almost sounds like a Bond-theme, delivered in lascivious vocals on a laid-back Reggae-skank. Equally challenging, with frequent switches between minor and major, sharps and flats, semitones and natural ones, Lay Your Troubles Down brings out another dimension of the verstile singer. It also introduces the talented Sanae Casita, whose soothing verses complement Katie's energetic performance perfectly. Can you number the genres touched on in this?
"You know we all die some day, there's nothing we can take with us, so let us..." Just Enjoy The Ride! Full-on Roots, this baby is the next aspirant for favourite song (one in twelve), its warm skank and catchy hookline inviting you to close your eyes and take off. Halfway through the track, I knew I found my motto-song for 2022!
With a mind thus set, I really hope you are ready to party now. On My Way Down has to run LOUD! High spirits instead of too much worrying, good mood instead of glum looks - the unapologetic manner in which Katie belts out her message is the vacuum cleaner you should plug in whenever grey dust threatens to settle. Last song on the playlist, then, is the grounding Been Here Before, a lyrical musing about the ups and downs of life. "Somewhere the rainbows and blue birds are feeling free, but here right now is just me."
What a ride! Inside Voices is a fantastic piece of innovative music, multilayered and surprising. With their gut approach (no overthinking!), Silent Nancy manage to bluesify Reggae and enter new musical dimensions. Even mixing and mastering stress the unconvential tonal arrangement, not merging everything into a coherent whole, but highlighting each instrument, each vocal contribution.
Gripping vocals, fresh riddims, authentic lyrics and outstanding artwork by Artitude to accompany their releases: Silent Nancy is simply amazing. Please, take the time to discover their creation Inside Voices - it will definitely enrich your young year!
Silent Nancy - Inside Voices
DIGITAL RELEASE [Upful Music]
Release date: 01/07/2022
01. For Those Who Don't Know
02. Different Love feat. The Uplifts
03. Inside Voices
04. Chance On Love
05. Biddi Don feat. Zoe Mazah
06. Tell Me What Side I'm On feat. Shaka the King
08. Lay Your Troubles Down feat. Sanae Casita
09. Just Enjoy The Ride
10. On My Way Down
11. Go Another Round
12. Been Here Before