Songs With Vanissa is an EP that showcases a uniquely creative collection of songs from a collaboration between afro-futurist producer djpe (Paul Edwards) and Pew Award-winning Cuban-American jazz vocalist Venissa Santi. Ocean of Emotion kicks things off, focusing initially on the delicate and characterful traits of Santi’s solo voice, later building in a creatively free and spacious yet colourful way. The soundscape is brilliantly interesting, loaded with flickers of jazz and trip-hop combined – the electronic and organic worlds uniting beautifully. As the rhythm picks up, there’s an underlying swing vibe that works really well. A wonderful, refreshing start to the EP.
My Schwinn follows with an immediately soulful smoothness. Santi’s recognisable voice drives again, comforting you as the subtle and retro, stylish beat pours through in the background. The lightness of the electronic vibe here contrasts powerfully with the seductive calmness and free-flowing nature of the voice. The song has a hypnotic aura to it that’s a pleasure to have play for you. As things progress, djpe adds more subtle flickers of energy and intricacies that slowly but surely make this a jazz-cafe, alternative trip-hop type journey. Your mind wanders freely among the positive brightness of the music.
The Edges brings a bit of a country or folk-pop songwriting vibe to the stage, with a cool and uplifting pace and rhythm that’s soaked in funk, and a sense of honesty and self-empowerment about the lyrics. The song offers a declarative and subsequently questioning hook that’s followed by a brilliant musical break. This one grows more and more enjoyable as it progresses, letting you lose yourself in the warmth and fullness of the music, quickly evolving into a definite personal highlight.
The further I got into this project, the more I felt as if I hadn’t stumbled upon a singer or artist with such a free-flowing sense of artistic expression in quite some time. The old days of smokey jazz bars and Nina Simone sets came to mind, fusing nostalgia with a lasting sense of excitement and gratitude. To combine this with the modern day experimental tones of djpe’s production makes for a winning result.
Lucky drives with optimistic, grateful lyrics and a quicker, manically excitable beat that increases in subtle intensity and passion as things move along – the same effect comes from the leading vocal and the snippets of additional vocals that fill out the outer edges. There are some wonderful, almost classical touches of instrumentation throughout this piece, giving it so much originality and personality.
Heartbeat mellows things out, bringing in a touch of late night melancholy, a slightly alternative, even haunting vibe, but with that soulful vocal at the forefront to keep you calm. The beat veers off in a retro-electronic, almost space-like direction. The minimalist nature of the piece creates a mildly dramatic few minutes of music that again appear with so much originality and a sense of the artists being genuinely unafraid and totally creatively free.
If I Could Write You a Letter brings the collection to a finish, but not before presenting one of the most interesting and unusual soundscapes yet. What emerges from the offset is something that feels partly retro-gaming inspired, partly jazz and funk touched, and partly ambient escapism at its most immersive and fascinating. Tiny fragments of audio collide, combine, and intertwine to create something vast and alternative, almost like a freestyle jam – the vocals included. When the lyrics do appear, you’ve already fallen deep into this cavern of colour and complex thought, guided by your own undoubtedly unique reaction to the music. This track ends things in the most characterful way possible.
The EP has a strong sense of identity throughput, both artists put so much of themselves into the songs – resulting in something pretty incomparable right now. Throughout the project, the duo are accompanied by guest soloists on flute, trumpet, trombone and saxophone. Download the EP via iTunes or CDBaby.