"Emotional Chess" (Album, 2013)
Evolve or Die
There's something fascinating about albums that choose not to consistently follow an expected formula. Instead of every track sitting rigidly in one genre, it can be more rewarding when the style shifts either mid-track or from track to track. This début album from London-based solo performer Jet Noir starts with a very club friendly trance/techno sound, and whilst this is, unquestionably, the bedrock for Emotional Chess, there are moments, and entire songs, that come from another creative perspective altogether.
The standard risk of this approach is that there is too much diversity, the impact is dissipated and the whole is weakened as a consequence. The flip side of the coin is an unpredictable but therefore richer experience. The fat bass and crunchy synths on Inhale-Exhale could almost be KMFDM. The title track subverts mainstream dance music conventions turning in a wry slo-mo grind. Whilst the theatrical Spiritual Decay expertly blends spoken narrative with epic soundtrack.
Whilst Noir clearly had a vision going into Emotional Chess, what she does so successfully is focus less consciously on what genre box the current track fits neatly into, instead allowing her seemingly diverse influences seep through into the accomplished songwriting. This is perhaps at its most marked on Like A Circle, a trance ballad that really showcases Noir's impressive vocal talents, that are far more capable and wide-ranging than the pure dance tracks might imply. The unexpected journeys are sometimes the ones you remember most. 7/10
Rob Dyer (February 2013)