Live review/ Jordan Rakei @ SWX

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By Benjy Sandler, Second year French and Spanish

On Tuesday 15 October, Jordan Rakei performed to a packed out SWX. With himself on vocals, keys and guitar, the multi instrumentalist and producer played a powerful set, showcasing the work off his latest album, Origin.

Signalling the start of the set, a performance of the 8th track off Origin ‘You and Me’. The band burst into a drunk, hip-hop groove whilst continually looping the chorus. The chorus itself is made up 13 syncopated, mostly staccato, notes, and Rakei sang it in unison with a synth that sounded like the pizzicato of a string orchestra, giving it a Japanese quality. The latin percussion was a welcome addition to the song and provided another, more earthly dimension of sound.

From that song followed a seamless transition into a dreamlike musical paradise based on C major. In this song and throughout the rest of the set, Rakei’s falsetto was clean, soft and inoffensive. I found it striking when his voice and the bass went into unison in this song, as it bombarded me with two extremes of pitch at the same time.

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At times during the set, particularly during some of the choruses, I sensed a lack of spontaneity. It sounded over-rehearsed; I felt that during the chorus of “Sorceress”, for instance, there was some space that could’ve been filled with piano/guitar lines. Similarly, during the chorus of “May’, I was disengaged and thought the piece never really got moving and would’ve benefitted from more interjections from the rhythm section.

Next was “Mantra”, a song, he explained, all about ‘living in a world where everything’s going wrong and remaining positive.’ This theme was effectively portrayed by his cry of despair over the wind chimes and ethereal chords at the beginning of the song. The song then appropriately became more upbeat and established a groove, replete with kicks, shakers and claps. The bluesy piano fills further added to the positivity and hopefulness of the song.

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I liked the syncopation of the hits in ‘Wildfire’ and the insertion of the odd bar of 4/4 in the chorus. I particularly liked when, near the end of the song, he warned the audience he was about to evoke D’Angelo, then proceeded to play a stripped-down, more spacious version of the chorus.

The song after ‘Say Something’ was one of my favourites on the night. It was funky and harmonically busy, and was presided over by the crunch of the electric keyboard. A highlight of the set was when he scatted in unison with his keyboard solo. Towards the end of the song, he crooned in minims over the chords of his keyboard, which I found liberating.

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The last couple of songs had a disco groove and a Mediterranean quality to them, especially due to the snare landing on beats 2.5 and 4 and the underlying sound of the wavering guitar-like synth. Rakei’s distinctive rattling, tenor-ranged vibrato was in full force that night. His songs were danceable, soulful, evocative and chilling all at once. What he and his band need to do more is to take risks.

Featured Image: Finlay Dawes/@finlayjdawes

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