The Nocturnal Sunshine album opens with the melodic “Intro (Holding On),” where Maya’s sparse vocals add a touch of soul to a deep and trippy workout. The style she excels at tends to rely on distant vocals that catch the ear without dominating the melodies and skipping beats that propel listeners effortlessly through a track. “Skipper” holds true to that formula and reminds me of some great moments in electronic music; the band Future Sound of London springs to mind.
Maya also excels when working with other artists, and she has a keen eye for who’s pushing the envelope. On “Down by the River,” produced alongside Buenos Aires production duo Catnapp, varied influences combine beautifully, while “Believe,” which features vocalist Chelou, feels like a slice of modern electronic soul. Maya has heavily championed Chelou, and rightly so. I was able to listen to Chelou’s first EP The Quiet before many others and instantly liked the tone of his vocal.
Maya has a way of evoking different genres as if she lived through them all, and dubby vibes continue to crop up throughout the record. On “Drive,” deep sleazy vocals are layered over a growling groove, representative of the early electronic dub scenes of the ’90s with a modern twist. The monstrous “Bass Bin” nods to old-school dub reggae, and the melodies in “It’s Alright” remind me of early Leftfield/Nexus 21 tracks—a good thing in my book.
Several tracks on offer are heavily reminiscent of Maya’s early material as Nocturnal Sunshine. “Take Me There” does what it promises, with intelligent beats and pitched-up vocals in the mix. Closing out the record is “Hotel,” another classic Nocturnal track and instantly recognizable, as if you’ve known it forever. This is forward-thinking, intelligent soul at its best.
Published June 10, 2015.