“We can’t go to Heaven if we try.” – from the Italian Beaches song “L.A.L.”
“We mean it like Yoda,” explains Italian Beaches vocalist Reva Russell English of the above lyric. “Do or do not. There is no try.”
The debut album by the Lexington, Kentucky-based trio is a straight-up soul platter that arrives under an experimental electronic umbrella. It’s a recording that could inspire Erykah Badu to cover Stereolab.
Scheduled for release on Nov. 3rd via the Lexington collective Desperate Spirits, Italian Beaches was produced by the label’s co-founder John Ferguson (of The Apples in Stereo), and represents yet another sonic touchstone in the emerging young imprint’s posture, one that could be superficially confusing, but on longer look reveals deep music across a variety of genres.
In the case of Italian Beaches, depth equals soul.
In addition to Ms. Russell English, the group is comprised of percussionist David Farris, and jazz-educated musician Farhad Rezaei. Electronic flourishes embellish throughout, there’s the occasional sampled loop, and a dope beat or three. It’s glued by the undeniable vocal presence of Russell English, holding it down, and lifting you up.
She sings from her guts.
“We have a tendency to think no further than our own lives,” Russell English says. “These songs are an attempt to clarify how connected we are to each other, to the past and to the far-off future.”
She elaborates on this idea of being connected to something greater, and more soulful, when discussing the album’s single “Tornado,” saying, “Sometimes nothing goes as you hoped, but that doesn’t mean something beautiful isn’t also about to happen. Hardship isn’t a state of mind — but training our perspective to see around, beyond and through the darkness helps us survive and transform it.”
Absorb that, but don’t let Russell English’s calm state of self-awareness keep you from thinking that Italian Beaches can’t get jiggy with it, as the kids of 1998 say. We’ve been talking about soul after all.
“Vinyl 9” is one such head-bobber, jumping off the starting line with a “9/8 rhythmic motif,” according to Farris, that permeates the song’s seven minutes.
Hell, George Clinton himself might anoint this sound “Farliament Punkadelic,” but closer to this planet, Farris further describes “Vinyl 9” as being “split into three distinctly different tri-polar sections that explore how chaos can become scaffolding on which to build something meaningful.”
Towards the end of the album’s 36-minute running time, Russell English sings, “Operators are standing by to meet your needs,” as if to beckon listeners into the elevated mindset that she, Farris, and Rezaei share, and are sharing, on this record.
“Life is overrated, but I’ll take it,” says Farris, frankly, plainly. “The natural world is greater than you, so enjoy it whilst you walk among the living.”
“Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s some evolved soul.
Italian Beaches arrives on Nov. 3rd via Desperate Spirits.
- Experimental Soul