Before the Storm
Before the Storm is available at:
RELEASED: 13th October, 2015
Written/composed by Arielle Sitrick & Travis Bunn. Produced by Travis Bunn & Bill Burke
Artwork by Juan Ándres Rivera.
OVER the next few days I will be wrapping up reviews for this year...
and winding-down L.A.-based artists. It has been great seeing what the city offer but it is time to step away to other locations and see what is around at the moment. Before I pack up my U.S. bags- Wednesday will see the last U.S. review for a while- it is back in a city that has provided much speculation and promise this year. REL (or ‘rel’; it varies now and then) is my featured artist and someone who has made big waves with her unique sounds and daring blend of genres and ideas. Before I come to her, I wanted to look at female solo artists in L.A.; genres such as R&B and Pop- in addition to the importance of social media and music-sharing websites. L.A. is lining some terrific solo acts for the following year. When it comes to the boys the likes of Evan Mellows- and his dark-sexy R&B mixings- is going to be one to watch for sure. It is worrying that it’s so hard to actually find out the names to watch into the next year. A Google search shows few promising results; you have to be very specific with your search terms. There is not a website that is dedicated to showcasing new artists and narrowing them by city and genre. If I want to find out L.A.-based female solo artists to watch (for 206) then where do you go? It is alarming that in 2015 there is no website focused on music and all it has to offer- something huge and all-encompassing. It is a pity because I know L.A. has a lot of great solo acts right now- that will come to the public attention in dribs and drabs it seems- especially when it comes to the girls. There are some great girl groups coming through in L.A. - Punk and Hard-Rock treasures- but it is the solo sector that seems to be most promising. Like New York; L.A. specialises in ambitious, genre-mixing artists; those that provide something dreamy and passionate- with darker edges and plenty of power. When it comes to genres- those that are going to be played and represented- there are a going to be quite a lot of R&B/Pop acts emerging. These genres are well represented yet few artists mix them together and experiment with what is possible- exploiting the emotional and sonic ground on offer. Each genre has potential and flexibility in its own right yet when you splice and blend them- same goes with any two other genres- you get a richer and wider sound; something that packs a bigger emotional punch. My featured artist is someone that deserves a lot greater attention and needs big recognition in 2016- her music warrants serious investigation and respect. Before I continue my point, let me introduce you to one of L.A.’s hottest female solo artists:
“r e l/20 years old / 20 years wise/full of dreams and poems and love/curious, passionate, compassionate. r e l is a 20 year old artist based out of Los Angeles. r e l ’s music radiates emotion, embodying what she calls “evoca-pop”– music that makes you think and feel– and what has been labeled by music-tastemakers and fans as dream pop/alternative r&b. This past May she released her debut self-titled EP containing the upbeat, ever popular track, “Plateau”. r e l ’s music has been featured on notable blogs such as MTV Iggy, Hilly Dilly, BaebleMusic, Crack in the Road, and Impose Magazine. r e l has played at several historic venues throughout the Los Angeles area including The House of Blues, Room 5, and The Mint, along with playing industry showcases including the DL at Dirty Laundry and BMI’s Acoustic Lounge. She has been working nonstop on new music and visuals for her upcoming EP”.
REL is an artist of-the-moment who displays huge ambition and love for what she does. When it comes to marketing your music and connecting with fans, social media and music-sharing websites are pivotal and crucial. Over the past year, the L.A. star has produced a string of wonderful songs and moments; dazzled with her self-titled E.P. - gaining the eyes and ears of some very high-profile publications. It is the way REL utilises social media and other sites- the likes of SoundCloud especially- that has connected her music with a wide range of people. I still find so many acts that negate the importance of social media and the music-sharing websites. A lot of bands and acts limit themselves to Facebook and Twitter- some stick to Facebook alone- and do not put their music out there. It is all very well having a great sound and a promising talent: if you fail to make your music readily-available and widespread then you will not pick up the fans and they will look elsewhere. It is not to say you need to be on every music website and flood people with updates. Too many acts are being cagey and naïve with regards their music- foolhardy considering how competitive and packed the music industry is. REL has a great team behind her for sure- ensuring her music is put in the right hands and gets exposure- but the L.A. artist’s stunning sound and distinct blends have done a lot of the talking. As we go into 2016, it is clear she is going to make a name for herself- there will be new material and tour dates on the agenda. It is still the early days for her so it is wise to remain realistic and not leap ahead. From what she has produced already there are clear signs of an artist who does things differently- someone that has a singular voice that needs to be encouraged and loved. Getting more assured and confident with every song, it signals a very bright and busy future for the young heroine. Just how far she can go is anyone’s guess.
Taking Before the Storm into consideration, it is worth tracking back to REL’s previous outings- seeing how her music has developed and shifted. Love Your Neighbour was released a year ago- before her self-titled E.P. - and showed a very distinct lyrical style. Backed by ghostly and sparse backings- something quite unsettling in fact- the heroine looks at twisted shadows and blood splatters on the wall. Taking us into a song that looks at knife wounds and haunted dreams, you get some vivid images and a compelling story. Whereas the chorus implores loving your neighbour (“as yourself”); the verses take us into troubled and disturbing avenues- presenting images that will linger in the mind for a while. REL’s vocal remains impassioned and firm throughout- barely changing course and projection from start to finish- to give the song quite an edgy and emotional sound. We look at a man with red in his eyes and a lustful hatred burning deep. With his meat cleaver by his side, there are yearnings for chaos and murder- the neighbourhood is about to get a rude wake-up. The song focuses on the troubled minds and peculiar figures that can lurk behind doors; taking us into very unique and murky waters.
Heading for the Sun featured on REL’s self-titled debut and changed course from Before the Storm. Whereas that song was more dark and haunting; Heading for the Sun is a more upbeat and fast-paced song. REL lets her voice roll and rap- as opposed to the more static delivery of before- to create something that takes us into R&B territory. The heroine’s voice is lighter and more impassioned; images of space exploration and solar flight and “all systems go”. Using these lyrics as metaphors for love and relationships- I may be off the mark but that is the way I interpret it- the song boasts one of the most accessible and memorable choruses REL has produced. Across the E.P. the L.A. musician mixed that accessibility and relatable themes with something more singular and dark- ensuring her music crossed boundaries and unites a lot of new fans.
Plateau is one of the mist memorable and celebrated tracks from REL- a song that has garnered a lot of attention and focus. The song was featured on various blogs and music publications because of its upbeat composition and consistent energy. Whereas the backing is quite uplifted, the lyrics look at time slipping away- personal concerns and reaching the end of the road. As the title suggests, there is little room to manoeuvre and compromise. It seems like a particular relationship is being investigated and explained. That need to turn the clock back and do things differently; it is clear there are struggles and need for resolutions. REL employs a very distinct lyrical style that is more image-provoking and dream-like than many of her contemporaries. Whilst many go for simple phrasing and language, she ensures her words have an idiosyncrasy and intelligence to them- delivered with a tumbling and impassioned weight. Throughout the song you get to focus on the vocal and lyric- the composition adds urgency and emotion yet is second nature to the foreground- and the confessions of a young woman who wants change in her life. The song repeats the chorus and central mantra- more so towards the ending- ensuring those words and sound stick in the mind. Boasting a contemporary sound and relatability- there are shades of Rhianna and other Pop-R&B crossover acts- meaning it success and popularity is no surprise. Whilst not as individual and unique as some previous outings, it shows new confidence and a change in direction- whilst retaining those original lyrics and stunning vocals.
Before the Storm continues the lyrical themes and idea of the E.P. - presented in that unique way but tapping into common themes- and could well have sat across that work. It seems like REL has found her niche and sound; there is not a lot of need to change things up much- it will be interesting to see where she goes now. The self-titled E.P. was a full and frank work that showed the L.A. heroine explore issues of love and relations; stress and strain- composed and presented with a very distinct style and projection. Over the course of the last year I get hear her confidence grow and little changes here and there. REL’s earliest work pushed her lyrics to darker avenues and demonstrated a song-writing talent with a need to distinguish herself from the pack. Whilst her vocals were not as developed and rounded as later work; what you got what that urgency and conviction from the very start. As time has progressed the music has become lighter and more upbeat; the Pop and R&B genres have been fused more readily and prolifically- that vocal has become more wide-ranging and impactful. Each song has its own pace and sounds; the vocal can twist and turn- it can rap and roll. This gives the music much more freedom and mobility- something that we will see more of in 2016.
Before the Storm emerges with an appropriately moody and evocative beginning. Darker electronics whip up images of clouds and rain; something quite uncertain and dangerous is at work. On this song, REL sounds at her most upset and troubled. Due to the discontent and friction in her relationship, her mind is heavy and her heart is burdened. Presenting lyrics that are among her most direct, accessible and simple- they do not have the poetic edges and obliqueness as before; the need to keep them simple ensures the full force of the emotions gets to the listener- in a song that will speak to a lot of listeners. The track begins with a vocal flow that gives some light and uplift to a rather unsettled and heart-aching song. Speaking to her man- the reason behind the relationship disillusionment is not clear- she reminisces about the old times and having fun. Perhaps things have got too heavy and they tried to run too quickly. Back when there were fewer ties and they were just having a fling, it seemed to be simpler and more pure- the happiness was there. Maybe their relationship was solid and defined; something might have come between them and has caused friction- our heroine is expelling her demons and trying to understand things. It appears there is some resentment and fall-out given what has happened; the lyrics point to someone who has a wrong to right- a lot of pain carried around with her. Backed by a thumping beat and an emotional sparseness- the composition remains quite bare and uncluttered early on- the vocal remains determined and strong. The prize fighter is winding up and preparing a whirlwind for her former lover. “I got a trick or two up my sleeve/You aren’t gonna see them but you’re gonna feel them” suggests someone who has been played and deceived too many times- time to put the man in his place and equal the score. Soon enough the composition becomes fuller and more driven- a neat and catchy beat meets swelling electronics- as our heroine talks of “The brawl is done, the fight is far from done”- signalling the duo are going to be in each other’s lives for a while now. It appears like the man has been cheating or telling lies; messing our heroine around and being no-good- something that is a common ill in relationships. In the beginning REL let it be known she liked it slow- I presume the speed of a relationship rather than sexual preferences- and this has been misinterpreted and abused.
Perhaps the guy has been lazy and inattentive; spent too much time with the boys and sniffing around other girls- assuming the relationship was causal and open. Whatever the circumstances behind the disservice; you sense that bristling angered and spiked intention. Our heroine’s voice never becomes too enraptured or strained; there is restraint and focus for sure- to allow those words and sentiments to be appreciated. The composition remains fairly predictable in a way. A lot of R&B/Pop acts present a similar mix of beats and electronics; in this case it is the right way to score the song- any other configuration or sound would do it an injustice. Riding that supportive and hard-hitting beat, you transport yourself into the battle and war. Amidst the themes of love-gone-wrong and bad fall-out there is enough obliqueness to keep the mystery building- no statement as to what happened to cause the rift. Maybe there are a lot of reasons and problems that have resulted in the explosion- it is clear the man is at fault. Our heroine prepares her punch and cyclone; he will not see the attack coming- but he’s going to feel its force. Empowered and vengeful; you get hooked into the passion and menace being built. Keeping her language simple and direct- not as highfalutin and unique as before- ensures that emotional resonance rules and she does not bury her feelings. By complicating the lyrics and making them too detached you would not get that spark and reality- the sign of a songwriter who understands the importance of developing, evolution and change. A terrific song that will appeal to a wide range of listeners- it blends R&B beats alongside more uplifted Pop moments- and Before the Storm takes effect. As the song continues a lot of the lyrics are reintroduced- like a mission statement or bellicose chant- but we get some new insight and revelations. It seems like the man was playing her; fooling around and trying to get the upper hand- it took her by surprise. Those sentiments and insights see the vocal toned down and isolated- before the composition wave whips once more. Our heroine has a surprise or two and is determined to get vengeance and justice. Boasting a contemporary sound that has its heart in the mainstream; there is enough grit and individuality to ensure it has more authority and depth than a lot of chart-based music. REL has always been an artist with far more grit and appeal than the slew of Pop acts on the scene- the sort that produce rather unforgettable and simplistic songs- but has ensured her sound are as accessible as they are unique. That composition keeps developing and pushing the heroine forward; driving the words and providing a pulpit for our girl to let her voice be heard. I am not sure who her lover is/was but one thing is for sure: he is being given a serious kick in the teeth throughout the track. By the final moments, there is a malevolent laugh and that desire to level the score. A song that not appeals to done-wrong girlfriends; its messages and ideas can be appreciated and understood by anyone- it is not a song that distances anyone or creates any walls. One of the most confident and determined songs I have heard from REL; it shows just what she can offer music in 2016.
I am not sure whether Before the Storm marks at the sound of what is to come- where relationship recriminations are in focus- but the language here is more simple and straightforward than before. A song that required few diversions and false avenues; the messages and words cannot be misinterpreted by anyone. It shows a songwriter that can ably seduce when going for the jugular- just as she can when in poetic territory. Every time REL looks at love and its issues, she presents her words and thoughts in a new and very unique way. Perhaps Before the Storm is the most accessible and everyday representation from her- her previous numbers showcase stunning wordplay and depth- but it is a required move here. Given the weight of emotions and circumstances surrounding the song- the pains and heartache that motivated the song- you need a set of lyrics that can be understood and interpreted by all. The power and primacy of the vocals brings you right into the song and makes you side for the heroine- balkanised against the wrong-doing boy and his mean tricks. Alongside Travis Bunn; REL has created a song that packs a huge emotional wallop. Whether this will form the basis of her forthcoming E.P. - there is speculation there is new material afoot- it will be fascinating to see what comes about. As it stands, Before the Storm is a fascinating stand-alone that will keep her old fans very happy- whilst bringing in new supporters. Retaining the sounds and compositional elements of her older work- whilst developing her songbook and emotional angle- you have a young artists with maturity, range and a huge amount of potential- a songwriter and artist that seems limitless when it comes to the music. I cannot wait to see where that inspiration takes her next.
There are so many solo artists out there it can be challenging and impossible to find out which ones are worth closer scrutiny into the next year. I have bemoaned the lack of appropriate websites that represent all of music and making it easy to find musicians by city and genre- surely not that hard an achievement? If something like that were introduced it would make it a lot simpler to locate YOUR type of music and the likes of REL. As it was, I came across her via good fortune in a way- a representative for REL contacted me- but chances are I would not have heard her music otherwise. I know there are tonnes of new musicians coming through but it is possible to narrow it down and organise things- make it a lot easier for the listeners to find the kind of music they want; in addition to stuff they may not have previously discovered. Our L.A. heroine is making the most of her online portfolio and ensuring she takes her music as far and wide as she can. With a sea of contemporaries vying for airplay and recognition, REL has developed and honed a sound that is very much hers- few other singers come across the same way. In the modern musical climate, it is vital you attack publicity and promotion on all fronts. A lot of new and inexperienced artists put themselves on Facebook and Twitter yet ignore SoundCloud and BandCamp. I have seen a lot of artists put their music on iTunes only- meaning relatively few people ever hear it. I understand the need for finance and making money from your songs but with so many musicians giving it away, can you afford to do this? There is no room for naivety in music as it is so competitive and packed. REL has made sure she gets her name and words out to the public as effectively as possible- it is no coincidence she is seeing the fruits of her labours blossom and inspire. Having played at some rather prestigious venues- including Dirty Laundry and B.M.I’s Acoustic Longue- she is sowing the seeds for an assured and prosperous future. Blogs and music publications have taken the music to heart and been seduced by those rare blends of sound and lyrics- stemming from an artist with originality and intelligence. L.A. is a musical neighbourhood that houses some of music’s most adventurous and fascinating artists. Being used to London and the U.K., when I get a chance to travel to the U.S.; I get to see the difference that is happening there- the wonderful young artists that are emerging and playing. L.A. has a lot of great solo artists emanating; REL is one of the most hungry and distinct of them all- let’s hope she continues with strength and determination. Songs like Plateau get you thinking and conspiring. Its lyrics mix romance and something classical- “The candle from the little shop in Paris, our adventure/Wax and wicker sitting on your dresser to remember” with something contemporary and new- “Watching Netflix in your bed/Back when you remembered every word I said”. Heading for the Sun looked at an imploding romance- sun to burn out in the sun- employing space terminology and imagery (“You're facing Mars, I'm facing Jupiter/Locked inside these bars, but you're still keeping score/I'm losing air, but you're so full of it (hot!) /This spaceship didn't come with the right toolkit”).
From her days of neighbourhood dangerous and religious symbolism; the salt-themed relationship woes and a unique insight into a young artist on the hunt- REL is developing into one of the most special and formidable writers around. Her way with words and phrases is intoxicating; the way she lets her voice glide and strike is phenomenal- an artist with a huge soul and passion. There are few artists out there who have such a sharp pen and a way with words. Too many musicians stick with clichés and platitudes; keep language simple and do not give that much depth- meaning their music does not stay in the memory for long. Picking apart REL’s words and thoughts gives you an insight into her mind and music; it makes the whole listening experience that much richer and more rewarding. 2016 is a year that should see a change in musical fortunes- there were few genuinely great acts in the mainstream- so let’s hope new music’s best and sharpest will transcend from the underground to give music the spark it desperately requires. If you have not heard the stunning L.A. resident do her thing; make sure you check out her music and watch a rare talent come to life. Getting stronger and more fascinating by the release- she is one of those artists that will be playing for years to come. I say this about every artist- and it is a point that needs repeating- but let’s hope REL comes and plays the U.K. It would give the nation a chance to see one of the U.S.’s finest solo talents take her unique blends and sounds to a new audience- her music has no limitations and every listener can appreciate what she says. With there being so many straight-ahead Pop and R&B artists around, it is great to see an artist invent her own genre (Evoca.-Pop) and fuse different sounds and blends into a wonderful whole. Congratulations to REL and what she has created in Before the Storm. That lyrical individuality and intellect is intact; the heroine keeps those mandates of love and separation intact- it is a musical consistent that is always going to be in vogue- and gives the subject new life and twists. Those evocative and poetic words show a young woman with a fertile and hungry imagination. The passionate vocals and intuitive sense of dynamics and mobility result in a song that never loses its fascination and sense of the unexpected. Take some time today to discover a new artist that has cut herself from the pack and is showing a huge amount of potential. With so many of music’s new and ambitious starting to wane and fade, it is great to see an artist…
IN no danger of fading any time soon.