Saint Jude – Signal

An intriguing blend of sonic exploration...

Saint Jude’s journey into the world of music hasn’t been an easy one. DJing was the South Londoner’s first pursuit. But his prospects were hindered significantly due to developing tinnitus at a very early age. However, cutting out music completely wasn’t an option for Jude. He found solace in creating music whilst being attentive to his condition. He’s released two EPs; his second, ‘Bodies Of Water’, being a real triumphant body of work. Now, Jude’s debut album ‘Signal’ marks a shift in his songwriting that intuitively ducks and dives from any attempt of sonic categorisation and places vulnerability at the top of the pedestal.

Abrasive textures dominate the opening proceedings. ‘Does’ rather plods along with its staccato stabs of rhythm, but Jude’s questioning, almost confrontational tone in his lyrics add great emotional density: “Is it easy enough? Is it deep enough? Does it mean enough? Does it feel like there’s something in the way?”. ‘Halfway’ makes for a challenging listen come its cacophynous conclusion and ‘Rosa’ is similarly jagged, but with more of an appealing, trip-hop edge à la Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’.

Away from its harsher tendencies, it’s in the album’s more tender moments where Jude’s melodic finesse really shines. ‘Late Summer’ marks a shift in dynamic. Woozy soundscapes are laced with lo-fi beats, subtle guitar strums and introspective lyrics that evoke strong essences of King Krule’s early material. The album closer ‘To Repel Ghosts’ puts Jude’s vulnerability to the fore. His vocals feel at their rawest here from a production perspective, and they deserve to be a stronger focal point across the entire album: “You don’t talk of home / All you want is what everybody wants the most / But now the door is closed, the future is a ghost, and the past is bones”.

Indeed, production in itself is one of Jude’s fortes, which his popular 2020 track ‘Keep the Light Inside the House’ illustrates in full glory. A few remnants of that similar ilk poke through on ‘Signal’, including ‘No Angels’. Electronica-esque drums take centre stage, pairing with reverby vocals and atmospheric synths to euphoric effect. A series of three short interludes, each featuring different artists and each titled ‘Signal’, also offer moments for reflection. The best is the spoken word exposé featuring Trim, where the repeated mantra to “strike a pose” spotlights pertinent anxieties of self-image in the public eye. 

‘Signal’ is a wholly collaborative album painted in varying shades of colour. It refuses to latch onto one particular style, which comes at a small cost to its cohesiveness. But it’s clear that Saint Jude is delving beyond his musical boundaries with his debut LP, paving a path for further exploration on his artistic journey ahead.

7/10

Words: Jamie Wilde

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