Stunning debut from folk songstress turned electronic pop prodigy
Electronic pop music usually gets its claws into you from a young age: there’s something about those sparse, knowing melodies and addictive choruses that hooks the average impressionable teen. Not so Kerry Leatham: traditional songwriting coursed through her veins from a young age, with early forays being wholly acoustic.
It wasn’t until she signed to Tape Club Records that this songstress opened her mind to new ways of framing the emotions that swirled between her synapses. At some point following the release of a folk EP with labelmate Peter Lyons, Kerry Leatham stumbled upon a copy of Logic and a laptop. Before long, Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada came knocking, and several experiments later she had, a little behind her peers, unambiguously morphed into an electronic pop artist under the guise of Roseau.
The story is somewhat remarkable in itself, but not as remarkable as the content of Roseau’s debut album, ‘Salt’. Her songwriting background has served her well, and is immediately apparent from the opening honeyed tones of the album’s ballad-like title track, where her smooth, sultry vocal washes beautifully over sparse electronic production.
‘Kids And Drunks’ is the first song to demonstrate just how successfully Leatham has recalibrated. From verse to chorus, her distinctively British intonations cast a spell over the rich fusion of syncopated melodies and itchy beats. That vocal positively snarls on the single ‘New Glass’, with its sardonic spoken word verses cutting through layers of icy chimes and intricate, bobbing beats.
Although ‘Salt’ rarely raises the pulse at any given point, ballads appear to be a speciality here. ‘See You Soon’ allows her aching tones an ocean of room to manoeuvre around the barely noticeable percussive snaps, crackles and pops. The songs are short and sweet – few pass the three-minute mark, but that’s plenty of time to lure the listener in with fables of lidocaine-induced heartbreak.
‘Hot Box’ is screaming out to be Roseau’s second single, as dizzy vocals coil around squeaky pulses and extrovert handclaps. The constantly shifting harmonies add texture and pitch that require little accompaniment; it’s therefore to her credit how the busy electronics vanish into the songs while still being a vital component of her work.
The album’s sonics were drawn from field recordings inspired by the rustic clattering of various junk found in a giant abandoned warehouse near Leatham’s home. A metaphor perhaps for the sense of melancholy seclusion that is strewn across her lyrics, beautifully balanced by the naked confidence of her voice – tracks such as ‘Accelerate’ are pure magic. To label ‘Salt’ addictive would be an understatement; Roseau is one lady to watch, and this is a clear contender for debut album of the year.