Pop music is baffling sometimes. It can be unoriginal, uninspiring, and frankly, boring. Happily, Laura Welsh’s debut LP Soft Control is a wonderful reminder of how remarkable and striking the pop genre can be. Welsh has come a long way since her days as ‘Laura and the Tears’, and Soft Control is a testament to her progress.
Marrying the genres of electronic-R&B and pop perfectly, Welsh’s power-ballad vocals subtly outshine the backing tracks of songs like ‘Ghosts’ and ‘God Keeps’, without drowning them out completely. The melodies are cutely intertwined with the piano and orchestral rhythms, as the inputs of synthesisers and electronic percussion are balanced brilliantly. On first impressions, Soft Control is remarkably reminiscent of a cross between a watered down Bipolar Sunshine and London Grammar: built around all of the key electronic tricks of the trade, like the clippy-cloppy percussion and dark synthesisers on ‘Still Life’, are flagged up and measured out subtly. Her music is elegant, deep, and a evocative of her early work with producer and musician Dev Hynes.
Welsh prefers her music to be labeled as ‘hypnotic electric soul-pop’. Point made, and point received. There is something stirringly spellbinding about Soft Control. ‘Breath Me In’, for instance, compromises slow beating muted guitar a long a stretch of droning synthesisers. The instrumentation merely keeps the rhythms interesting, and allows Welsh’s voice to freely roam where it desires. As solo albums should be, the singer is given the reigns. Welsh is given control; room to show off her voice. “Baby just breathe me in”, she sings. Simple, yet deeply intimate and lustful. Lyrically, she’s mindful and poetic.
Slow clicking and sensually seductive, tracks like ‘Hollow Drum’ again accentuate Welsh’s voice as the main instrument of choice. It’s a calm pounding of finger clicking and straight cutting blues-pop. In essence, it’s pop music performed in an inventive, creative way. Each instrument is diluted, restrained and compressed to co-exist with Welsh’s ever-growing sound. However, Soft Control is neither under-produced, nor rushed. Instead, it is an exquisite slurp of cool, vintage electronic sounds waiting to be gobbled up. Smeared over a layer of minimalist, yet full sounding production, Soft Control is miles apart from a flat listen, and you’ll be licking your fingers for days after the first listen.
With all things considered, Soft Control has been whittled and polished into a strong product of hard work, raw vocal talent and personality. It’s a dramatic album, but it’s strangely intimate and hypnotic too. Welsh makes the bigger picture her own canvas to paint on, and her pallet is awash with colour and mystery.
Nothing baffling about Laura Welsh’s take on pop music, then. An inspiring, well-rounded record that locks the fingers of sassy electro soul with the cool structures of slow-jam pop music. A triumph in every sense of the word.
For Fortitude Magazine. See also an exclusive MUZU TV performance from Laura herself exclusive for Fortitude: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/pop/album-review-laura-welsh-soft-control/22913/