Cooly G - Playin' Me
With a title like Playin' Me, it's all too easy to approach the debut album from Brixton's Cooly G – aka Merissa Campbell – as a victimised, woeful break-up record. The truth, however, is that across its 13 tracks of funky house, post-dubstep and smooth soul, Campbell's Hyperdub-released full-length runs the entire gamut of human emotion; though it still feels very much framed by the imposing shadow of romantic ties past and present.
It's almost as if the life cycle of a relationship is encapsulated along the course of Playin' Me's runtime. It starts out seductive and relatively optimistic, sending out urban siren calls on the sublime 'Come Into my Room' and the equally beguiling 'Landscapes'. Things gradually creep towards darkness though – much as a failing romance might – but even at its most menacing, Playin' Me still retains plenty of inspiration and intensity through the syncopated beats of 'It's Serious' and the Distance-esque urban intensity of 'What Airtime'. No matter how heavy Campbell lets her musical environs get, she still manages to carve out a niche in your psyche that's equal parts ecstasy and trauma.
While it's nigh on impossible to split Playin' Me into a clear day-and-night dichotomy – its progression between vibes feels too fluid for that – there's a definite slide from the soulful to the sinister. To name an airtight divide is rendered useless by Campbell's juxtaposition of moods and sensations; take, for example, 'Good Times' which sees some of the album's most upbeat subject matter coalescing with some of its more malevolent atmospherics, an indication of trouble on the horizon as a sense of foreboding encroaches on what is immediately relayed in the track's narrative. An odd but rather successful cover of Coldplay's 'Trouble' meanwhile, showcases Campbell's ability to make a disparate choice of source material her own; it feels perfectly at home with the record's latter themes of isolation and loneliness.
What Playin' Me never does however is descend into stilted histrionics, no matter how emotional – or even traumatic – the events it chronicles are, and it's hard not to feel a little inspired by this. Although it's far from a flawless debut full-length, Playin' Me remains effortlessly listenable and calmly assured, easily positioning Campbell right alongside Laurel Halo and Terror Danjah as one of Hyperdub's most innovative, promising and interesting propositions.