Soulful experimentalism accompanied by the vocal work of an angel, serpentwithfeet brings forth his debut studio length record, soil. This is one record which is redefining the meaning of ingenious sampling, hybridising genres and reinventing gospel in its own unique way.
Opening the record is ‘whisper’, a colourful track which first introduces us to the extent of this artist’s capabilities, the smooth sound from the backing synth is countered by harsh and jagged sampling which overwhelm the track with a flavour of mystery. The vocals carry the song and the usage of a cappella harmony work is ecstatic and filled to the brim with electricity. The track’s constant shifting in dynamics is more than capable of getting the listen underway and leaves you feeling hungry for more.
From here, we’re met with a series of tracks which follow little to no real pattern, each feeling diversely different from the last. Some, such as ‘wrong tree’, bring forth a really fun usage of vibrant sound where vocalist Josiah Wise can truly demonstrate his potential through his delicate, but intensely powerful lyricism. Meanwhile, other tracks demonstrate the fragility behind serpentwithfeet’s art, ‘cherubim’ demonstrates the continuous and intimate relationships between black, gay and christian cultures, all brought together through an incredibly warming track which blends a traditional gospel sound with something far more modern.
The sheer unpredictability of this album brings its mystery, it feels as though once each track has found its pacing, Josiah makes an active decision to throw a curveball and move the track in a way that no one was expecting. Tracks such as ‘mourning song’ achieve such an effect due to the far darker tones of the song, while the use of a demon-like growl injects a sense of sinister ambience before being completely counteracted by Josiah’s purely angelic vocal work. The layering and production of the sound is truly second to none and captures the sheer intensity of an entire choir behind him. This is definitely a track which will leave a lasting impression.
As we head towards the end of the record we’re introduced to a far more dynamic side of serpentwithfeet’s sound. Tracks such as ‘invoice’ capture an incredibly sensitive narrative, yet provide possibly the biggest sound the record has seen so far, the track’s sheer power creates a beautiful blend of passion and fragility which so few artists are able to balance so precisely. Meanwhile, the record’s penultimate ‘slow syrup’ brings with it a church sounding gospel before shifting into both uplifting and truly harrowing feelings. The lyric: “Rejection has shaped me again” is repeated throughout and generates a sorrowful image of how Josiah has become someone he doesn’t want to be through the decisions of others. Finally, though, it is the record’s finale ‘bless ur heart’ which utilises the simplicity of a lonely piano and Josiah’s vocal spotlighting to paint a beautiful and holistic narrative, which could not be a more suited way to end such a wonderful journey.
Overall, serpentwithfeet has brought forth a record which more than delivers to his already incredible persona. This is certainly one artist to be keeping a very close eye on as his sound is a beacon of originality within the modern world. Few artists are redefining genres as well as this artist and soil is the perfect instalment of demonstrating the sheer capabilities of a creative mind. It feels as though Josiah’s journey is only just beginning and I can only imagine seeing these tracks in a live environment would bring forth an all new meaning to the word ‘mesmerising’.