Depending on your viewpoint, we could be currently enjoying a golden age of RnB or we could be experiencing its lamentable nadir, with traditional funk and groove sounds largely replaced by introspective seclusion and downbeat atmospherics. RnB of a distinctly leftfield indie nature has been a growing trend over the past few years before reaching true cultural breakthrough with records by The Weeknd, The xx and Drake becoming ubiquitous reference points.
Californian siblings Daniel and Andrew Aged, who comprise Inc., very much share a similar aesthetic with these acts. The duo’s debut album No World is a musically accomplished, lovingly crafted debut that fuses a wistful, slow motion melancholy with the gentlest of sensual grooves. It is a debut that fits in perfectly with the current vogue sound.
Both brothers have experience as session players with the likes of Cee Lo Green, Elton John and Beck, and appear to have spent years honing their craft. This album is certainly not the work of naïve amateurs. Every single sound present here is carefully considered. With a focus mainly on organic natural instrumentation, No World’s tracks, although understated are richly detailed.
Opener The Place provides a perfect introduction to the duo’s soft focus slow jams, gently lilting and swaying it is a lovely mix of airy vaporised soul and jazzy guitar inflections. Singer Andrew provides the vocal touchstone. His sensual vocals are a joy.
Inc. may not be an obviously natural fit on their record label 4AD, but as the album progresses a connection emerges. It can be heard in the tremulous guitar of Black Wings; and it’s not a tall order to imagine Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser adding her voice to this music.
Despite often sounding quite lovely, Inc. struggle to truly make an impression. With a tempo that rarely rises beyond laid back, many of the songs here are in parlous danger of drifting by on a wispy haze. It is a sensuous record full of soul baring emotion, certainly, yet at times it sounds bloodless and pallid. And that’s frustrating, as there is clear talent at work.
Sonically, No World makes for a rather strange listen. Almost every track is so subdued that the entire record floats by in a somnambulant fug, submerged and subsumed. The diaphanous gospel jazz of Your Tears is especially beguiling. The best moments are the songs that channel Prince at his most soulful; lightly funky jams like Careful and 5 Days are gorgeous caresses of sound. It’s no surprise that two of the duo’s best melodies accompany these highlights. Inc. may struggle to reel you in but when they do you can’t help but immerse yourself in dreamy rapture.
Inc.’s take on RnB may be moody and subdued but No World manages to retain the air of an honest and heartfelt album by a duo with a deep-rooted love of soul and its emotive power. It is not a bastardization of RnB aesthetics in order to capture a scene. Rather, it is a subtle work that may not blow you away but provides lovely succour if you care to wallow in a soulfully translucent daze.