Abra Is a Dark Wave Princess
There are few records that hook me as hard as Abra‘s latest EP. The six song 12″ is a bedroom odyssey of fragmented loves, wavy beats, and meandering vocal melodies. From start to finish, Princess shows the duchess of dark wave at a new level of skill both in terms of creating beats and collaging lyrics.
Princess comes off of Abra’s debut full length, Rose. Being released within a year of each other, it makes sense the two projects have similarities (and there are strong similarities between the two). That said, Princess takes the tones and feelings of Rose and fleshes them out, so the progression seems less a continued effort to produce the same sound and more a clearer vision of what Abra wants to sound like.
The 12″ begins with the short song “COME 4 ME.” The song, despite its brevity, is able to glide through soundscapes with ease–all with Abra’s lovely voice at its helm. An interesting choice as the first track, “COME 4 ME” doesn’t fit well within the aesthetic of the rest of the EP, which is comprised of longer, more varied tracks. That said, the song sets up the voice the rest of the EP will inhabit: one that bounces between sexualized power and young self-consciousness.
This is nothing new for Abra. Rose is filled with this juxtaposition, but Princess more subtly mixes these tones, often in the same song, creating more nuance, more lyrical dimension, and lusher instrumentals than her previous efforts. And this hits its pitch in the middle with the single, “CRY BABY.” The song sutures 808s to 80s RnB. Hovering above the mix, Abra’s voice is the sultriest mix of Grimes, Sade, and Janet Jackson–not a bad cadre of influences. When the song hits its hook, there’s no denying its almost criminal infectiousness.
While the second half of the EP stays within the slower BPM ranges like the first half, its bass heavy and sparser tracks highlight the glacial pace Abra is able to skate around. A hard split from “CRY BABY,” “BIG BOI” flips the tone and feel of Princess. While “CRY BABY” is a partied up lament for a failing relationship, “BIG BOI” seems to show the EP’s speaker taking agency, turning hunter from prey. With raps that snake through the slow beat, there’s definitely Father‘s fingerprints all over the track.
Princess ends with “THINKING OF U,” which returns more straightforwardly to the sound she had created on Rose. Heavily influenced by 80s synth and slicked up, sad RnB, “THINKING OF U” exhibits Abra’s voice at its most powerful. Much like the change of tone between Grimes’ Visions and Art Angels, Abra’s voice sounds more controlled even when she pushes her melodies and harmonies far beyond the territory she’s explored before.
Despite all the control and confidence in her voice, the singer still manages to harbor a bit of vulnerability in her melodies, both in the EP’s final song and throughout Princess in general, making the record one to play on repeat.