When James Blake first came on the scene, he was exactly what I needed to resolve my schizo relationship with modern R&B: tuneful and earnest with just enough glitch to appeal to my appetite for imperfection. Then he relied too much on his formula, as have numerous followers on, and things became predictable once again.
Along comes Ian Mugerwa – a/k/a ot to, not to – and his debut album of intimate, deconstructed R&B “experiments”, Goshen, on Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label. The compositions take turns evoking dirt-floor blues, avant-garde jazz, even Pablo-era Kanye. The unifying thread is Ian’s vocals which read as personal, hypnotic journal entries, sung/muttered/chanted as he carries us through his coming-of-age years.
This nuanced, eclectic effort could’ve easily veered into self-indulgent territory if it didn’t so clearly yearn to connect. It’s soul music in the most literal sense of the word. In fact, when recommending Goshen to a friend I said, “Listen closely.” It’s the best (and only) way to appreciate this album.