Amatus, the Brooklyn-based indie soul producer and singer has garnered quite a bit of attention from the new music scene since she released her EP, Broken Compass, in February of this year. Amatus’ experimental, moog-driven, syncopated beats are a surprise backdrop for her smooth, nu-soul vocals, and she has thus attracted attention from indie, R&B and hip hop camps alike. Unequivocally, the single from Broken Compass was the oddly flavored yet very catchy Messin’. Now Amatus has teamed up with another experimental producer, Jnerio Jarel, to create a remix of Messin’ which is unexpected and fresh, yet more ambient and down tempo. This remix puts a new musical spin on what is already a very unique piece of work.
Many wonder how Amatus came to have such an eclectic style in her new music, as she fuses oddly syncopated rolling beats, heavy synthesizers and pretty nu-soul vocals. Having grown up partially in Philadelphia, Amatus spent quite a bit of time in New York City, where through friends she was able to sit in on recording sessions with the likes of Erykah Badu, The Roots and Common. She credits these sessions with giving her an almost preternatural understanding of jazz syncopation as well as an appreciation for the pretty and bluesy tones of nu-soul.
Even more of an impression on the young Amatus was a meeting with MeShell Ndegeocello, who loaned her a Triton sequencing keyboard. Amatus began to experiment with production and used the borrowed sequencer to put all of the sounds in her head together. The result was the nu-soul infused, synth-driven indie jazz on Messin’ and Broken Compass, a style of new music which has both indie and hip hop fans captivated.
Jnerio Jarel, or JJ Doom, is also known for his experimental style of production, but he is rooted more firmly in hip hop. Also based in New York City, Jarel has been working under a number of aliases since 2000, including Dr. Who Dat?, Panama Blaque, JJ Tron and Capital Peoples, just to name a few. He has worked with a gallery of artists, including such varied acts as Jay-Z, Damon Albarn of Gorillaz, Blur and Radiohead. He is currently putting most of his new music under his own label, Label Who, and most often goes by JJ Doom. His tracks are varied and do not follow much of a pattern or style, but much of his recent work sounds a bit like Dr. Octagon, also known as MF Doom, another experimental rapper and producer with whom Jarel has worked.
In his remix of Messin’, Jnerio Jarel shows his versatility and also takes Amatus’ vocals away from the sound her fans were becoming used to hearing and setting them down inside a slower, chill reggae dancehall structure. Though Jarel’s fans have come to know his work as full of surprises, a reggae beat will be a novel change, especially when accompanied by Amatus’ nu-soul vocals. The pairing works well, however, as Jarel has chosen only a few verses and the chorus from the original to use in his remix. He then elongates parts of the verse and hook to fit the slower tempo, creating an entirely different feel from the electrified and high-energy original. Both the original and the remix of Messin’ are somewhat minimalist, but Jarel uses a healthy dose of reverb both in the reggae melody and in Amatus’ vocals, creating a soft echo. The end result is a pretty reggae track which smooths out the usual jumpiness of dancehall and gives it a more ambient quality.
Amatus seems to like the new remix by Jnerio Jarel, as it is posted on her Soundcloud page along with her Broken Compass EP and her other singles, and on her Youtube page. In these two experimental artists, a new musical sound has come out of the Messin’ remix. Fans and critics are hopeful that this will not be the last time Amatus and Jnerio Jarel work together at creating new music.
Review by Layla Klamt