We're bringing you an exclusive first taste from Birminghams rising star Hemai's debut album, with a sunny tune featuring Ruby Wood of the Submotion Orchestra on the vocals.
‘Strange Beauty’ is the debut album from producer and multi-instrumentalist Louie Hemus AKA Hemai. A collection of stories of the love, spirit and balance of the universe, the hotly tipped 22-year-old experiments with the idea of movement and the present, bringing together some of his favourite sounds from around the world and melding them with his UK roots.
The release follows previous singles “Relight feat. Laura Roy & Woddy Green” which plays with shifts in tempo to accentuate the hidden depths of the track; Japanese Bossa Nova inspired “Noa Noa feat. Emilia Anastazja”; and the mystical and uplifting “Love Dancer feat. FiFi Robo”. These tracks have seen Hemai garner support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC 6Music), Jack Saunders (BBC Radio 1), Jamz Supernova (BBC 1Xtra), Tony Minvielle and China Moses (Jazz FM), Papaoul (Worldwide FM), EARMILK, Stereofox and Clash Magazine as he cements his place in the thriving UK jazz and electronic scene.
The vivid and visceral world of ‘Strange Beauty’ is unearthed with opener “We Could Be Jaded feat. Layfullstop”. From the first notes of Melbourne-based musician Erica Tucceri’s flute, the electric warmth of the LP is ignited; “the arrangement takes the shape of the horizon”, Hemai explains. Though indicating the beginning of a journey, the track embraces the importance of being grounded in the present, enticing the listener into the experience of Hemai’s ‘Strange Beauty’.
“I’m an avid believer in emotive expression over logical expression. Feel over theory. It has a heart of its own.”
Hemai utilises the elements around him as a driving force throughout the LP. From the imagery of a beautiful sky on “Awake Indigo feat. Ruby Wood” – a song born out of his love for music that makes you dance, featuring the Submotion Orchestra vocalist – to the beach and coastal ideas that inspire the freedom and boundless instrumental tracks “When Day Breaks” and “Gone Fishing”, the release radiates the joy and spirit that only the natural world can provide. The colours evoked from these experiences also play a part in the final form of the release:
“When I’m creating, it’s just the expressive colours I gravitate towards… Yellows, oranges, purples, greens and similar shades”.
These colours are pulled together by Hemai and his brother Sam Hemus along with vibrant splodges of energy in the artwork for the album and the preceding singles, mirroring the heart of the release.
Appearing on drums across ‘Strange Beauty’, Hemai dedicates “Brother’s Shuffle feat. Maralisa” to Sam and the movement he brings to the outro: “I had to pay homage to my brother and call the track after his insane skills”.
Piecing together ‘Strange Beauty’ throughout 2020, many of the collaborations occurred remotely. New Zealand-born vocalist Wallace taps into the belief that even in knowing we have strength and power; we can still feel apprehensive). The vocals sit alongside a quote from spiritual teacher Mooji, grounding the track’s ethereal focus. Written alongside the River Thames, “Bandit’s Pocket feat. FiFi Robo” came from a clear vision of the Birmingham-born and now London-based pair. The pattern of waves shifting from calm to crashing becomes a metaphor for the greed that can corrupt and pull us down; “we watched the year go by and couldn’t help but notice the greed that some people have”. Further afield but along similar themes, LA-based vocalist Maralisa (Space Captain), turns her attention to the need for care and communication, adding “no matter how divided we all can be, there is still the possibility of love and understanding”.
A reflection of himself and his loved ones, the album ‘Strange Beauty’ is a testament to the thoughtfulness and meticulous nature of Hemai’s production and dedication to the music he makes.
Receiving upfront support from Gilles Peterson on his debut 2019 EP 'Eyes Closed' was closely followed by Hemai’s official remix of Oscar Jerome’s "Gravitate" and being titled one to watch by BBC Introducing’s Jaguar on her Hot List 2020.
The album officially drops on May 7th 2021 on Brighton based Tru Thoughts label, but there's already an option to pre-save the Deluxe Edition on bandcamp.
Now you can get your first taste of the sun-packed broken beat tune below and remember, as Ruby says "nothing beats the power of the mind":
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