Album Review : And Is Phi – ‘Double Pink’ : Vibrant and vital nu-jazz vocalist opens up a new chapter.

The Breakdown

As announcements go Double Pink is some statement, signalling that And Is Phi has finally found the creative anchorage that she has been looking for.
Albert's Favourites 8.9

Vocalist, song writer, dancer and visual artist, Andrea Isabelle Phillips (aka And Is Phi) talks about her first album ‘Double Pink’ out now on Albert’s Favourites as something that’s been cultivated over time. Well it may have been simmering in her imagination for a while but that doesn’t mean we have a recording that’s stewed, bland, over-cooked or over wrought. ‘Double Pink’ arrives fresh and inviting, a lush presentation of flourishing nu-soul inspiration.

Take the elegant gliding entrance of the opening title track. From the get-go, Double Pink drifts and swirls through a spacious arrangement, all cymbal sighs and harp flutters, colouring beats and sultry bass moans. What’s on offer is a soundscape of higher-plane soul jazz, wrapping around And Is Phi’s succulent, expressive voice as it purrs and aches with emotional intent. As announcements go Double Pink is some statement, a signal that And Is Phi has finally found the creative anchorage that she has been looking for.

Her journey to this point has taken her from tropical buzz of the Philippines to Oslo’s deep chill, before settling into London’s nu-jazz community. An active collaborator and contributor within this scene, And Is Phi has provided voice, visuals and more on music from Steam Down, Emma Jean Thackray and producer William Florelle. She’s also been part of the Albert’s Favourites network for a while now, inputting to the releases by soul-expansionists Hector Plimmer and AF founder Scrimshire, and that strong foundation seems to have given And Is Phi the assurance to push on.

As ‘Double Pink’ uncurls it’s clear that here we have an artist who has a lot to say but who also possesses the musical expression to say it. Take the subtle power of White Noise, a song of suggested shapes and emotions that almost seems to brush up against you. The post-highlife tingle of guitars, the flickering tense beats and more of that vocal, so sophisticated but so expressive, here is a track that steams with personality and presence. You can feel the Joni, Norah J and Gretchen Parlato comparisons coming on.

Why I’m Shy probes more gently, a jazz-toned ballad that unpeels the delicate acoustic opening to reveal something pensive and troubled. And Is Phi admits quizzically to herself that even ‘peacocks pass me by’ while the strings quiver and drums splash in a burst of neo-classical pop. There’s a signifier here, as the tune spirals around its multi-shaded moods, of the complex, ambitious songwriting at the heart of ‘Double Pink’. On Why I’m Shy that’s matched by an unrestrained ‘why not’ arrangement that keeps you guessing. Is this bossa, is this jazz-psych? With a song as magnetic as this there’s really no need for answers.

Such ambition is underpinned by the collaborators gathered around ‘Double Pink’. Recorded over nine months it feels like a record that revolves around a free flowing creative community. With input from the likes of Alabaster DePlume affiliate Momoko Watanabe Gill, Cykada’s Tilé Lipere-Gichigi, in demand bassist Isobella Burnham and keys provider Lorenz Okello, it’s almost a snapshot of the next wave from the London Jazz epicentre.

And with this ensemble’s intuition comes a confidence to ride wherever each song takes the players, from driven funk to lucid r & b, exposed ballads to elevated spiritual jazz. There’s A delivers an electro trip hop groove thing with a twitch of avant surprises in its distorted voicings, harp sprinkles and a strident guitar arcing from Ribot-like spooks to Zappa-esque sustain. More glitchy and maybe more uptight, the slow rolling Working treads through a down tempo stretch of another weary week before And Is Phi pushes the song to a place of bass bin shaking, flute trilling, fretboard squalling abandon. From ‘no energy’ to the power of ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’ it’s a track that blissfully breaks on through.

Set against this action the piano leaning, stark beauty of Staar could have been misplaced but this classic late night/early morning ballad more than holds its own. Showcasing the And Is Phi peerless vocal in all its whisper tinged brilliance, the track underlines the carefully developed dynamic that holds the album together. Yes there’s variation but the stylistic shimmying never outpaces the soulful momentum of the record, everything has a purpose and is in the right place.

That cohesion threads right through to the expansive closing cut Eyes That Open. A cosmic wash of piano chimes, gently breaking chords and new age flute, the six minutes drift along with a daringly ambient, understated finality. And Is Phi’s psychedelic words tumble out free form, images of ‘deep sea divers’ ‘climbers’ ‘fires’, ‘windchimes’, ‘soft light’ and ‘floating grace’ twirling the song to unexpected highs with a Georgia Anne Muldrow spirit. It’s at these moments when the sincerity of the album really hits you. And Is Phi wanted to introduce us to her ‘truth’, as she says ‘deeply, bare, and as quirky as I really am’. ‘Double Pink‘ does that without pretension and honestly stands as the real deal.

Get your copy of ‘Double Pink‘ by And Is Phi from your local record store or direct from Albert’s Favourites HERE

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