Some artists have a trajectory that is even surprising to them. One day you are cutting down trees for your brother’s lumber business and the next you are opening up for Tame Impala and having your album come out on 4AD. If that seems specific, it’s because it is the exact trajectory of New York based Minnesota transplant Velvet Negroni. Also known to his friends and family as Jeremy Nutzman, Velvet Negroni creates mesmerizing and moody R&B that while is seemingly familiar, eschews the traditional genre troupes and blazes it’s own trail. His debut album NEON BROWN, out August 30th, is a smooth trip through modern soul music that should have fans of late night listening clamouring for more.
From the opening of lead track “ONE ONE” you know you are in for something slightly different. Nutzman’s voice is so silky that you’ll find yourself hanging off his every word. The production is suitably roomy and awash in reverb. You’re not going to find the typical trap hats or other cliches that are ubiquitous of the genre, instead you’ll be treated to some great musicianship, a highlight is the slight guitar picking at the tail end of the song, and Nutzman’s wonderful vocal melodies. The whole endeavour can easily be described as minimal. A trend which continues with the second song, “KURT KOBAIN”. Velvet Negroni has this cool Prince or Terence Trent D’arby thing happening. He’s clearly not afraid to try out different things to spice up his tracks. The little bursts of electric guitar mixed in with the hypnotic beat will definitely have your head bopping throughout the song’s running time. “POSTER CHILD” changes things up just slightly. This is Velvet Negroni’s take on hip hop and it’s a refreshing change of pace from a lot of modern rap music. His tranquil flow set atop washed out harmonies and subtle synth pads create such a nice mood that you may want to pack a bag and move in for a little while. There are such nice touches throughout the album. The cool trumpet at the start of “CONFETTI”, the jazz tinged “U.DUNNO” and album highlight “CHOIR BOY” with it’s vibraphone and understated bass parts just holding it together underneath Nutzman’s delicate vocals.
After listening to the album it’s no surprise that Nutzman grew up practicing classical piano for an hour everyday. NEON BROWN is very much the product of someone who knows the ins and outs of music and is interested in experimenting and flipping the genre they are working within on it’s head. Velvet Negroni may have had a seemingly quick and sudden upward trajectory but after one listen through of NEON BROWN you will understand why. It’s a mesmerizing and compelling reinterpretation of classic soul and modern R&B that is sure to turn a lot of heads.
review by Adam Fink