Every so often an artist comes around who refuses to be categorized, someone whose music is so creative and unusual that it manages to simply exist on its own merits. Mozez is such an artist. Having emerged a few years ago in several collaborations with electronica collective Zero 7, Mozez has been perfecting his signature sound for some time. Yet nothing could have prepared us for So Still, a debut so striking and original that it far exceeds expectations.
So Still is a masterpiece of eclecticism and creativity, the sort of album that gets better with each listen. Timeless and pure, this is soul music that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks, resting instead on the strength of the songwriting and the artist’s performance. Mozez’s sound owes as much to the glossy pop of Seal as it does to the eerie productions of Massive Attack, and the album comes off as electronic soul: somewhere between R&B and trip-hop. The productions range from simple computer effects to full-on guitar-driven tracks. Dark, bass-heavy beats are followed by whisper-thin synths and percussions.
Jamaican-born Mozez sings in the higher register with a commanding presence throughout the album, never once forcing or overextending his voice. His lyrics are uplifting, weaving intricate tapestries that speak of love, spirituality and looking forward. Mozez searches his soul to produce profound statements such as “Making mistakes/ Chasing the sun/ Asking the crystal ball who has won/ Setting the pace that brings you down/ Thinking illusion, can’t figure out/ Taking a break, not making a sound/ Seeking to find a higher ground.” With tracks named “Feel Free,” “Getting Better” and “Beautiful Day,” it’s easy to see the vibe he is going for.
None of the album’s fourteen tracks contain wasted time or space, and the standouts are plenty. The brilliant, piano-backed “Take the Sun” rides on a simmering drum beat and blooms into a percussion-heavy chorus that will give you goose bumps. “Venus Rise,” produced by Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Bjork, Seal) is one of the album’s simpler productions, relying mostly on Mozez’s gently unspooling vocal, breezy electronic blips and a soaring trumpet. The title track is a beautifully written acoustic performance that haunts through its simplicity. One of the album’s most memorable songs, “Spinning Top,” is actually sung by Mozez’s discovery, Yvonne John-Lewis. The irresistible chant “Spinning top don’t stop/ I don’t wanna be where I belong” sucked me into Mozez’s world of poetic and meaningful lyrics backed by otherworldly productions. Collaborations with Nightmares of Wax and Henry Binns from Zero 7 fit in seamlessly but don’t reach the incredible heights of the soul-drenched “Baby Blue” or the soaring “Somehow Now.”
So Still deserves any accolades and positive remarks that it will undoubtedly receive. This is music that goes beyond what is expected. It is greater than soul, greater than electronica, greater than Mozez himself. This album revels in the joy and beauty of music, regardless of boundaries or limitations.