kamal. – so here you are, drowning

A multi-faceted project from an artist to watch...

North-West London multi-instrumentalist kamal. continues an upward trajectory on his latest project. The 10-track mixtape is an expertly tranquil listen, enthralled with honey toned vocals and honest emotive lyricism. Two years on from debut EP ‘war outside’ we’re able to see how his soundscape has evolved. 

Setting the stage with ‘free flow’, layered vocals build towards a head-bopping bass flip, a free form intro that makes the project quickly captivating. Indeed, such dynamic mix of genres is a welcomed feature of the new gen.

‘falling’ is a rhythmic track with R&B-esque flair. The Ivor Novello nominee delivers an intoxicating hook and smooth rolling verses that have notes of progressive pop rock. Two songs in and we’re able to see how his artistry has ripened. 

Deemed a bedroom pop prodigy following his breakout a few years back, that aspect of kamal. isn’t lost here, with picks like ‘better’ and ‘so so close’ refreshingly stripped back and heartfelt. Curiously, the latter is reminiscent of early Ed Sheeran.

As we hit the halfway mark of the mixtape, it subtly begins to feel as he’s stepping away from his Teen Spirit era and into more provocative territory; ‘sex on you’ is tastefully raunchy. 

‘essential’ is the last of the pre-released offerings from ‘so here you are drowning’, the guitar-fuelled song produced by J Moon. He juxtaposes soft singing with intermittent striking strums and raw lyrics as he explores a break-up. ‘white wine’ meanwhile is a seamless transition, self-described as a memorial to a relationship. 

The plights of life, anxiety, love and navigating it all – just some of the ever-present themes of kamal.’s music. ‘crowded places’ a post lockdown ‘homebody’ of sorts, speaks on imposter syndrome experiences, the past few years resulting in many young adults feeling lost in a way due to the pandemic. As such, this project has a great relatability aspect to it. 

As we edge towards the end of the mixtape, kamal. plays us out with punchy pick ‘leave me alone’. ‘drown’ bringing us full circle, nodding toward the project’s title. Sombre in nature, the multi-million streaming artist is introspective and self-aware. His storytelling abilities shine here as he chronicles getting swept up and ‘drowning’ without his haven. The project taking inspiration from Caleb Azumah Nelson’s bestseller Open Water, the tape closes with a line from the book: “You have always thought if you opened your mouth in open water you would drown, but if you didn’t open your mouth you would suffocate. So here you are, drowning.”

kamal.’s newest project does everything it’s meant to, depicting growth, reality and romance with a youthful lens. But it is in no way juvenile, his song-writing skills impressive, each song seemingly crafted with intent. ‘so here you are drowning’ is an emotion-evoking record, and makes you excited to see what else is to come from the Billie Eilish co-signed rising star. 


Words: Shanté Collier-McDermott

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