Laura Mvula allows her passion for the 80s to take full hold on the delightfully paced and beautifully crafted Pink Noise.
Some artists play it safe and stick with an overall sound for most of their careers. But it could be said that the greats are the ones that have the courage to experiment and change direction. Classically-trained musician Laura Mvula has done just that with new album Pink Noise, turning her previous blend of orchestral pop and funk disco of previous albums on its head and focusing on more of an 80s synth sound that is boosted by her passion and enthusiasm.
From the very beginning of the record, you get a vibe of how much Mvula is enjoying her music and her 80s reimagining. Opening with the snappy drum beats and synthy build-ups of Safe Passage, it’s the perfect intro featuring fun starts and stops, solid pop undertones and a revealing bassline. Mvula’s vocals are on form as always in this different atmosphere as she slowly allows her voice to come out of its shell and make the most of both stripped-back and layered sections.
Followed by the beautifully layered vocals of Conditional, we get a Mvula looking back at difficult times and trials throughout her life, perhaps hitting on the hardships of being dropped by her label earlier on in her career: “You make it look easy, when you took it all from me, left me for empty, that familiar sorrow, another blow to the ego”. The hard-hitting lyrics are littered around playful breaks and beats with synths rising from the undergrowth to come alive in the chorus.
As the album rolls onwards, the 80s comes out even more in both sound and production. Church Girl is not just a retro throwback, but could actually have been released 40 years ago. Magical feels a little more modern in comparison, leaning more on the soulful RnB side but with a bright and energetic chorus allowing Mvula to show off the strength of her vocals once again. Golden Ashes is more of a classically beat-driven track with beautiful lockdowns and flows that draw more on modern techniques to grow amongst a blend of lofi, pop and 80s glitz.
Even though the record occasionally borrows from more modern sounds, where the record – and Mvula – are most comfortable is when she truly embraces the 80s in full. What Matters is testament to this, with Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro lending his vocals to meld perfectly with Mvula’s in what could easily be the last dance in a retro high school prom – full of teenagers holding their loved ones close is frilly dresses and ill-fitting suits. The record ends with the delightful Before the Dawn, building on everything that has gone before it, feeling familiar yet new; the sign of a great track.
Laura Mvula has shown us her love of the 80s and a deep understanding of how to create an album that holds together well. The change in direction for Pink Noise has worked because she has a deep love for the music she’s created. Her classical training has brought with it a certain quality to an 80s inspired album that others would be missing and this has allowed her to experiment when needed but hold the songs together with an underling retro vibe that works perfectly.