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culture

Sound Advice: Pressure by Rochelle Jordan

Local singer helps R&B get weird.

One of the odd benefits—or curses, depending on your perspective—of living in the age of music blogs is the fact that a new subgenre is invented roughly every 18 hours. All some blogger needs to do is find three people making relatively similar music, think of a creative name for it, and voila! He or she (but most often he) has created a new subgenre.

The last two-or-so years have given rise to such odd terms as witch house, cloud rap, and, most amusingly, PBR&B. For those of you who don’t spend your days perusing music blogs, PBR&B, as you could probably guess, is R&B’s hipster-friendly cousin.

Like most of these genres, the definition is a little nebulous, but PBR&B is generally distinguished by elements borrowed from downtempo electronica, production that tends toward the ethereal or slightly spooky, and a general angsty vibe. (Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Miguel and How to Dress Well are all prime examples.) Local songstress Rochelle Jordan arguably exists on PBR&B’s fringes. Like Miguel, she skirts the line between hipster-approved, avant-garde R&B and the traditional, poppier branch of the genre. Most of the time, on her album Pressure, she does it fairly well.

“Too Long” is beautifully minimalist: Jordan pointedly avoids vocal gymnastics, save for a couple flourishes, and opts to sing/whisper/rap her goodbye to an ex-lover over a skittering high hat and snapping snare. On “Shotgun,” her voice soars over series of soft pulsing electrical sounds. (You can listen to it by clicking on the sample above.) “Dedication” is an odd interlude that has Jordan singing over what sounds like a landing UFO. “You Ain’t My Man” starts off fairly straight ahead, but a series of overdubs gradually turns it into a multilayered kaleidoscope of sound, before it drops off into a sparse, echoey ending. The title track has Jordan’s voice sounding ethereal and airy over a slightly militaristic drum beat.

Where Jordan falters a little is when she crosses the too far into mainstream pop-R&B territory. Songs like “Could’ve Been” and “Touch” toss away much of the angst and trippy production for fuller-sounding instrumentals and straightforward love-song vocalizing. It’s not that she’s bad at any of this—Jordan is a strong singer. It’s just kind of lacking a wow factor. When Jordan moves into mainstream R&B, she stops being interesting and turns into just another artist with a good voice. It’s fine—it’s just nothing we haven’t heard before.

Overall, though, Pressure is an intriguing and interesting outing, which is sexy, eerie, weird, and uplifting by turns. If Jordan is able to stick to her strengths, she could be a legitimate R&B superstar, with or without the “PB.”

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