Looks can be deceiving, and so it goes with electronic musician/producer Esther Joy Lane. Taking to the stage for only her second ever gig as part of Independent Venue Week in Oxford at the beginning of the year, you’d be forgiven for expecting something grungier than the heartfelt, dusky electronica that followed. Less than 12 months on and she’s rapidly out-growing her hometown. Having already performed at Bestival and Land of Kings, and been championed by BBC 6 Music’s Nemone, the release of her debut EP sees her deserve a place on those impending ‘ones to watch’ lists for 2016.
Esther’s EP leads us dancing over that late noughties’ burial ground of witch-house and chillwave, breathing new life as she goes into the introverted husks of oOoOO and Balam Acab with an unashamedly pop sensibility. Melding dark and brooding instrumentation with a voice striking for both its eloquence and the clarity of production, the result is both infectious and intoxicating. The four track release may open in a distinctly Animal Collective haze, but it quickly evolves into something more direct and uninhibited with the dancefloor slant, buzzing beat and Grimes-esque bounce beneath the rich and textured vocals of ‘Make A Way’. The strikingly open and candid lyrics too strike an enticing balance between soulful and fragile, and display a clear r’n’b influence that has spawned comparisons to more mainstream acts like Jessie Ware and London Grammar. ‘Traveling Light’ is as immediate in its appeal as that of those two artists; deep and rich and establishing a funereal kind of groove resonating beneath the understated arpeggios.
The stripped back, elegiac ‘You Know’ and the post-dubstep pop of ‘Second Hand Heart’ complete the EP and show this isn’t a one off. It’s an immersive record from start to end that’s all the more refreshing for the glitchy genre straddling on display. Where others might struggle with a crisis of identity (what is this? Grunge? Pop? Lo-fi laptop wizardry?) Esther Joy Lane’s music is sincere and effortless, and could be the next significant Oxford export.