May Devun's foray into R&B dropped October 23; it's called 'Penumbra Lounge'. And it's excellent stuff. The album was mixed and engineered by Doug Grean, who knows what he is about. Devun's style can be described as Baroque-Pop amalgamated with R&B. And she is capable of pulling it off because of her powerful voice.
Baroque Pop utilizes simple, sometimes intricately layered melodies, along with sumptuous instrumentation. Together, these characteristics provide majestic dramatic elements and nuances of grandeur that are almost operatic. And because of the R&B influence, Devun's interpretation is definitely blue, almost woeful.
Although the arrangements on 'Penumbra Lounge' are admirable, the reason the music comes together is Devun's voice, which is a vivacious instrument of expression. In fact, vocally, Devun is a member of an exclusive group: strong female voices capable of blowing listeners away, women whose voices transcend all ordinary degrees of range and phrasing. Divas like Adele and Liz Hale. Put simply, Devun's voice is sensual, intense and potent, like aged single malt whiskey.
Nine tracks inhabit the album. The opening track, 'Echoes In The Dark', is a slow R&B number with a simple melody that allows Devun to strut her vocal range. And although melancholic lyrically, the tune has a visceral punch. 'Somebody To Love' is another strong R&B tune, boasting a superb chorus line.
Perhaps the best song on the album, 'We Walk Alone' combines R&B with a definite jazz sensibility. A surging piano drives the melody and excellent background vocals add an exquisite component to the tune's depth. Admittedly, "best song on the album" is subjective, especially because eight of the nine songs demand attention.
The solitary weak song on the album is 'Status Anxiety', which as the title suggests, produces listener anxiety because of the strident, almost shrill pitch of the bashing piano and a melody that lurches with disconcerting effect.
'Only Fool Here' is an upbeat R&B tune that, while still a tad gloomy, shows that Devun isn't afraid to inject some pizzazz into her voice. Essentially, 'Penumbra Lounge' commands attention, if only because of Devun's thunderbolt vocals. Some of the melodies hark back to Nina Simone, but Devun embosses her distinctive voice on each song. For aficionados of R&B delivered by a superlative female voice, 'Penumbra Lounge' is just what the doctor ordered.
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