Noya Rao ‘Icarus’ LP/CD/DIG (Gondwana) 3/5

Electronica and soul music can be complimentary bedfellows and this intriguing album from Leeds based outfit Noya Rao proves why. With vocalist Olivia Bhattacharjee and produced by Tom Henry, this has a lovely 1980’s retro feel that, in parts at least, recalls the backbeat of Soft Cell in one of their more soulful moods, yet there are additional jazz-inflected vibes which make this group stand out from the rest. This writer was impressed by the bass line and 1970’s feel to the song, ‘Same sun will rise’, and an inventive change of tempo in the drum beat half way through. Sounding somewhat like a modern update on the mid-1980’s Loose Ends production, ‘This time’, is a moody number with the most soulful of vocal interpretations. Elsewhere, there is a vocoder-style vocal on ‘Fly’, with the subtle use of synthesizers, while a quality beat ballad can be found in ‘Azimuth’. Keyboards feature prominently throughout and have an endearing quality to them, as on a pair of songs, ‘Midas’, and ‘I feel’. A two-part vignette, ‘Dreaming Pts.1 & 2’, effectively bookends the album, with the second deploying keyboards to a greater extent and with a distinctive slower pace to it. Very much a work in progress, it will be interesting to monitor the progress and future direction of Noya Rao in the years to come. A promising debut recording nonetheless.

Tim Stenhouse