Serpentwithfeet applied a fresh coat of hi-gloss with last album “Soil”, enlisting the help of producers like Clams Casino and Tri-Angle labelmate Katie Gately – “Deacon” finds the producer diving into even more personal realms, touching on spiky club forms simultaneously. These songs are soulful musings on serpentwithfeet’s emotional world, dedicated to friends and lovers and struck through with feelings that emerge too rarely from contemporary pop. The production is often skeletal – ‘Same Size Shoe’, for example, is barely more than a kick and snare combo – allowing the complex vocal arrangements to yet again take the spotlight, building in blissful harmonic layers one by one. And by combining a love of gospel music with an implicit understanding of R&B radio pop formula and deep knowledge of experimental ambient music, serpentwithfeet has a winning, idiosyncratic formula. He’s basically managed to achieve whatever it is people think James Blake is doing and does so without grandstanding.
‘Amir’ sounds like an alternate universe ‘No Scrubs’, all tearful and dense with chopped acoustic guitar and neck snapping ’90s R&B production tics. While NAO collaboration ‘Heart Storm’ finds serpentwithfeet at his most euphoric, fusing choral music with waves of analog synth ambience. Closer ‘Fellowship’ is the pick of the bunch: a bonafide tearjerker, effortlessly inverting brittle Afrobeats-esque percussion for one of the sweetest musings on friendship we’ve heard in ages. If “Deacon” doesn’t move you at all, you’ve got a heart of stone honestly. Church music for lovelorn heretics.