Merissa Campbell’s debut album as Cooly G, Playin’ Me, was an unexpected word of mouth gem and marked an expanding of frontiers at the Hyperdub label. It presented a subtle, minimalist sound world, with Campbell’s breathy, restrained vocals often sounding refreshingly abstract. Follow up Wait ‘Til Night presents something of a dichotomy. The music remains mostly skeletal, delicate and mesmerising (although sometimes leaning towards a more conventional electro-soul model) but the lyrics are far from subtle. Even a cursory glance at the song titles (Your Sex, Want, So Deep, Freak You and, ahem, Fuck With You) makes it abundantly clear that Campbell only has one thing on her mind. Wait Til Night is her seduction album, her Let’s Get It On.
Campbell’s voice, skilfully absorbed within the fabric of the music on Playin’ Me, is much more in the foreground here, perhaps appropriately so given the forthrightness of her seduction calls. Of the many developments in her style, perhaps the most impressive is the attention to detail paid to the vocal arrangements. Many of the tracks seem to be concocted by several swooning Cooly Gs, and the harmonies are often suitably lustrous and compelling (particularly on the vibrant, enticing title track, an effective curtain raiser).
Sometimes the results are thrilling and highly distinctive, not least during the album’s highly effective middle section. Want combines dreamy, lugubrious lust with a cold, mechanistic accompaniment. So Deep, with its slinky half time groove and insistent, pulsing hook (perhaps a little too thin and slight to be called a bass line) actually conveys some of the sense experience of desire in the nightclub and beyond. It is the moment here that most sounds like it belongs in the night hours. With its loosely structured piano and sub bass, 1st Time feels warmer and more human.
Wait Til Night feels like a cohesive mood piece, and sometimes tracks segue into each other with perhaps too smooth a sense of transition. There’s also a sense that, whilst Cooly G has built a reputation on exploring minimalism and sensuality, some of the tracks here are a little lacking in substance or depth. Fuck With You, for example, although benefiting from one of the album’s most infectious pop melodies, does feel somewhat incomplete. Some of the more unexpected production tricks, such as the distorted guitar on Your Sex, actually sound a little dated, especially when compared with the more inventive use of guitar based sounds on Playin’ Me’s He Said I Said.
Whilst explorations of lust and desire constitute a necessary and important facet of popular music, any sense of erotic adventure is immediately dissipated when a command as clinical as ‘penetrate now’ is used (Your Sex). Sex and desire were crucial ingredients on Playin‘ Me too, of course, but there they felt more like an element as part of a wider story – one where darker tones often seemed to win out. Wait Til Night, sometimes to its credit, but perhaps overall to its detriment, feels more like a brighter, more straightforward, R&B inspired set.