Review: Sinah – Sleek [EP]

By ajcolores

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Sleek, the debut EP from London-by-way-of-Berlin singer and producer Sinah Blohberger (pronounced Xena), feels like a statement of purpose. Not only do its 17 minutes offer up some of the more gratifying and exciting music to come from an emerging artist this year, but each of its 4 tracks manage to sound almost totally unique from one another despite being built from roughly the same elements, and with each listen, it offers the potential to discover something new. It's the work of an ambitious artist determined to set herself apart on her own terms and she succeeds right from the beginning. Sure, you can make out a few familiar styles running throughout Sleek--dub and trip-hop, R&B, and even early 4AD Records (Head Over Heels era Cocteau Twins immediately comes to mind for some reason), but they are twisted and shaped into something unique that makes it not so easy to pin the music down.

So even though 'Loveless' rides a stoned trip-hop beat through the empty streets at 4am, tinges of Eastern influence, scattered percussion, and bits of piano gives its weed-fueled spaciness a distinctly colorful texture without diminishing its overall quality; the slightly downtempo-ish 'Starry Eyed' meanwhile is filled out with a gorgeous trembling piano and blocky percussion that gives its languid beat a bit more of a pulse without taking away from its woozy sense of comfort. Perhaps one of the more remarkable things about Sleek is the production itself, because this isn't the work of a big budget producer or even that of an emerging underground producer, but rather it's the work of Sinah herself. She wrote, produced, and recorded the entire thing herself, and the quality alone, especially for that of a debut release, easily justifies the hype growing around her

Normally, when an artist assumes this much control over every aspect of a project, the results can sometimes be heavy handed, muddled or underwhelming, but not only is the sound is crisp and warm, it's also spacious yet offers plenty of little details and layers to explore at the same time. Something else that makes Sleek such a rewarding listen is how exploratory in nature the music can be while retaining a certain degree of pop sensibility. Take for example 'I Had The Need To', which starts off with ricocheting percussion, tense synths, and glitchy effects but quickly morphs into a more familiar and radio friendly sweaty bump and grind groove anchored by a particularly sticky hook that does a lot to further notch up the sexual tension.

WATCH | Sinah - 'Sleek'

Getting lost in all of the little details makes it easy to take for granted perhaps one of Sleek's greatest strengths: Sinah's voice. It's easy to overlook at first mostly because of how subtly it blends in with the music and how breathy and understated her singing can feel at times. But in truth, she has a versatile voice that can be beautiful and haunting, seductive and aching, domineering and vulnerable often at once, and it's the sense of subtly and restraint that gives it its power.

She never over reaches or attempts to push herself towards sky scraping melodrama nor does she need to, she's smart enough to work within her limits and she lets the music do most of the heavy lifting for her by creating the appropriate atmosphere that she in turn effortlessly fills in with so many layers of emotions that it can be nearly overwhelming at times. This is especially true of the EP's title track, an uncomfortably catchy break up song whose descending bass, melancholy piano, and stuttering beat all capture that moment where everything finally comes to an end and you're left with a sinking feeling deep within your heart and gut, and what makes that feeling even worse is when she sighs "It's gonna hurt/but not for long" in a soothing but slightly aching tone that belies the obvious fact that the pain is going to linger unbearably longer than she's letting on.

Occasionally, where some artists come up short on their debut is that they find themselves either too afraid to really push their own boundaries or are so overly focused on achieving a single sound or idea that the music winds up suffering from tunnel vision as a result. But where an artist like Sinah differs is that she uses Sleek to do just the opposite by stretching out and exploring a wide range of ideas, arrangements, and textures all the while preventing the music from feeling cluttered and allowing Sleek to retain its compact feel. And that keen sense of balance between pushing boundaries and pulling back is another thrilling aspect of the EP as a whole, and it leads you to wonder what places she'll be taking her music to on her full-length debut by the time it finally arrives.

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