Sometimes you listen to something and it’s so unique that you feel like it’s a miracle that it even exists, which is certainly something you could say about Chris Savor’s Intro EP. For starters, the spctra-produced songs somehow manage to marry Chris’ soulful vocals with dark R&B, 2 step and even trip-hop sounds, often within the course of a single song, but in a way that flips those genres on their heads, so much so that you might as well say that it does not sound like R&B, 2 step or trip-hop. To my ears, it sounds like those genres not only being turned upside down but being played backwards with the pitch turned way down. But not those genres as they sound today. No, everything about this EP is post; it’s what these genres would sound like in the future, being played backwards with the pitch down. Are you confused yet? Well, that’s not my intention. And the songs really do not sound confusing. They’re just difficult to summarize.
But before I attempt to give you the run down on some of them, there’s another reason it’s a miracle that these songs exist: on January 1st, 2014, Savor was jumped on the east side of New York, where he’d been living somewhat miserably, working a 9 – 5 day job, for a few years. I don’t know the full details, but he was apparently left in such bad shape that he was told that his condition may not stabilize. When he heard that, something inside him changed. Making music could no longer be a side-project. After he wound up making a full recovery, he immersed himself in the production software Ableton Live to turn his vision into carefully crafted sounds. He released his self-produced first single, “No More,” later that year. Soon after, he met Philippines-born producer spctra and they started coming up with beats that meshed together R&B, soul and “trippy future sounds.”
“Let’s just run ’til we find nowhere else to go,” Savor sings somberly on EP opener “Journey,” which blends heavy beats with gloomy synth and, you guessed it, futuristic sounds. If I had to compare the music to other artists, I’ll just say that it reminds me of BANKS’ debut and FKA twigs’ LP1, something you could just as easily say about most of the songs on the perfectly cohesive EP. But that’s just the music. The vocals are more like the early sounds of The Weeknd. Or a male version of Dawn Richard. With a hint of R. Kelly.
“Take Me Back” has many interesting things happening, like what I described in the beginning of this review. The dark flashes of synth actually do sound like synth being played backwards. Its sticky, marshmallowy beats aren’t the hardest on the EP, but they’re still plenty potent. “Back / Take me back,” he sing-speaks, pleading like his life depends on it. You get the feeling the person won’t take him back though, the song having an ominous vibe. I should also mention that the songs on Intro were written during the winter when Savor was jumped, so you can’t expect happy-go-lucky here.
“I spend my days wondering why? / Am I still here,” he sings on “Still,” which has vocals coming at you from the left and vocals coming at you from the right, the song providing a maximum stereo experience. You could say that about all of the songs here. And it’s not just stereo that makes the songs so interesting — it’s the way they utilize space. All of these songs have breathing room, allowing each beat, futuristic sound and vocal snippet to exist without drowning each other out. Some parts are far away, off in the background, meanwhile other sounds occupy the forefront. In many ways the entire EP’s production reminds me of the early work of AIR. Layers and layers of lush, far out sounds. Just listen to “Runnin Down” if you need something to chill out to. It’s nothing if not hypnotic. It slows my heart rate when I listen to it.
You feel like you’re floating in space when you listen to a song like “Drowne.” It’s the sort of trippy song Massive Attack really needs to make right out. You can’t even understand most of the vocals. But that doesn’t make it any less emotional or intriguing. You can feel Savor’s aching spirit throughout the track.
Savor grew up in London — where he’s recently returned to — and that accent is quite audible during “Can’t Live Like This.” The irony is that you can understand the vocals here much easier than on the other tracks. “I won’t believe what they say / This is my time now / And I won’t slow down,” he sings, reminding me slightly of Craig David. The song features a guest, Francesca, whose vocals significantly enhance the song’s emotiveness. Musically, there’s minimal percussion, the track mostly existing on humming synthesizers (at least that’s what it sounds like to my ears) and, of course, the vocals.
“TTMO” closes the EP. “It’s about time we move,” he sings as the song begins. Perhaps he was contemplating his move back to London when he wrote this one? This is the song that sounds most like 2-step, or at least the way I remember 2-step. I could easily hear Craig David singing it. It’s not the sort of song Craig David would sing though. Well, maybe now he would, but not early on in his career. Too dreary for him, I think.
It also must be said that there are hints of ’90’s electronica vibe in many of these songs. It doesn’t quite dominate them; they’re everything else I’ve just written first. But in the background, in between the main beats, there are little sounds — tiny blips and beeps and beats — that remind me of Björk’s Homogenic album, or The Cardigans’ self-described pro-tools experiment Gran Turismo, which I happen to think is their best album. It’s interesting because those are two albums that still sound futuristic when I listen to them today even though they’ve been around roughly two decades. So, Savor and spctar using such sounds does not make the songs feel retro. On the contrary, they make them sound futuristic. Those combined with the other futuristic sounds they’ve crafted help make the magic that is Savor’s Intro EP.